Cover image for The last days
The last days
Queneau, Raymond, 1903-1976.
Uniform Title:
Derniers jours. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
Elmwood Park, IL : Dalkey Archive Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
xiii, 237 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Translation of: Les derniers jours.
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Author Notes

This French author of treatises on mathematics and other scholarly works has made his reputation writing comic novels. Raymond Queneau (through one of his characters) once defined humor as "an attempt to purge lofty feelings of all the baloney." Roger Shattuck interprets his philosophy: "Life is of course absurd and it is ludicrous to take it seriously; only the comic is serious." Life is so serious to Queneau that only laughter makes it bearable. He has written a play, screenplays, poetry, numerous articles, and many novels, the first of which, Le Chiendent (The Bark Tree), was published in 1933. In Exercises in Style (1947) he tells a simple anecdote 99 different ways. According to some critics, The Blue Flowers (1965) represents Queneau at his best. Its jokes, puns, double-entendres, deceptions, wild events, tricky correspondences, and bawdy language make it a feast of comic riches. The influence of Charlie Chaplin, as well as James Joyce is detectable in Queneau's fiction.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Parisian student life in the 1920s and Queneau's own intellectual maturation (he was a founding member of Oulipo) inspired this tale of three adults facing old age, three students doomed to military service and one philosopher/waiter central to their six destinies. PW called this ``beguiling. . . . Queneau's literary infractions . . . are not for the sake of novelty but for the sake of the novel.'' (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Among the last of Queneau's major works to be translated into English, this highly stylized novel draws upon the author's intimate journal (1920-28) for many details. Like the novel's main character, Queneau went to Paris from Normandy to study philosophy in 1920. This is, however, more than an autobiographical journey through Parisian student life in the 1920s. It is an artfully crafted literary mosaic of oppositions and similarities (of characters, descriptions, attitudes, and perceptions) that emphasize the literary quality of this work. The finality evoked in the title is rich in potential for intepretation, as is the work itself. The use of puns and neologisms, as well as other stylistic and rhetorical devices characteristic of Queneau's work, have come to be recognized as uniquely his.-- Anthony Caprio, Oglethorpe Univ., Atlanta, Ga. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Three cheers for Barbara Wright. She continues to give us lively translations of the most interesting modern French writers, in this case the third novel of Raymond Queneau, a novelist and poet who increasingly appears to be one of the most important modernists. His modernism in this 1936 work consists in an ironic contrast between formal innovation and a vision of the eternal repetition of the human destinies of the French students, old men, and Parisian waiters who act out their lives here. Formally, the novel can be compared to a series of concentric circles that, like planetary orbits, revolve around the Parisian waiter at the center of the work. This is a witty novel that is a witness both to Queneau's marvelous sense of humor and his capacity for self-examination. (The work is in part a near-portrait of Queneau as a student.) Includes a useful introduction and notes and is recommended for nearly all libraries. -A. Thiher, University of Missouri--Columbia