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Articles tagged "Oulipo"

Oulipian Champagne: Mucking with Caradec’s Deft Trickery

I remember watching Yvonne Rainer’s Journeys from Berlin/1971 in film class, and I recall the feeling of sitting in that dark Simon Fraser annex classroom searching for patterns that eluded me.  Hmm, in the past three shots, the traffic has been moving to the left.  Maybe THAT means something. Never mind, now it’s going to the right.  And . . . we’re back to Stonehenge.  Is the camera spinning to the left?  Back to the Baader-Meinhof gang.  It...

From the Translator: Content with Constraint

The question most on a translator’s mind, when working on an Oulipian text, is, do you translate the constraint or the content? Can you do both: follow both the potentiality unleashed by the constraint and the text actually on the page? Can you offer the reader both an absorptive reading of a text-in-itself and the generative sense of potentialities unleashed by consciousness of the constraint? The constraint-or-content dilemma came up for me when I was translating the two columns of...

Self-translation / Self-destruction

Soon after being co-opted into the Oulipo in 1998, I started to write in French, while also continuing to write in English, and working as an all-around freelance translator (poetry, fiction, IT, marketing, ad campaigns, you name it). I’d only just taken this decisive step in my literary development, when the inevitable happened: first, I was asked to contribute a text to a French-language review, while having in a virtual drawer something written in English that would do the job...

Words with Borders: Writing from the Oulipo

As the prevailing image used by book reviewers to praise literary translations is that of transparency—limpid, pellucid, crystalline—it seems clear, so to speak, how ready we are to think of language as a window onto meaning. Whatever difficulties a translator may have encountered in carrying that meaning over into a new syntactic, lexical, and cultural idiom, we tend to expect his or her fingerprints to be wiped away by the time the text arrives before us, and for the resulting...

The Stations of the Cry

This is the tale of a lengthy journey. A step-by-step journey, one inspired by a misfortune that took place in the court of the Hungarian Prince Esterházy, in November 1772, in the city of Esterháza. A kind of voyage. An esoteric and maiden voyage whose steps I will attempt to recount for you. So what is it? An itinerary. An itinerary of the twenty-six stations. As we approach the starting line, all is possible, all is permitted: is this freedom or is it permissiveness? This...

Seven Irrational Sonnets

Melancholy So I’ll once more find my old horizons, cherished scent of winds and habitations. Fear not if it seems I’m quitting the place. I leave Paris just to love it better. One tends to hurry a banal embrace. But what’s this pride worth that’s past all seasons?    Try to unite the heart with its reasons.  The city, while smiling, leaves a rough trace. I leave Paris just to love you better. To love you better, I couldn’t picture— Now...

Melody in A Flat

in the basement the heroine of a Gainsbourg song on the eighth a top executive smug and cocky on the first a sexually repressed family of bourgeois on the seventh Mr. Fix-It getting itchy fingers on the second a man all alone watching TV on the sixth an old couple bored as hell on the third no one home except the dust on the fifth the gang gets the party started on the fourth mom tucks her three kids in on the fourth she sings a lullaby they bawl in the basement she sits down with her...

To sleep, perchance to dream

Censorship We know that the earliest readers of Remembrance of Things Past objected to the length of its incipit narration of its hero’s noddings-off and nocturnal (and diurnal) reveries. A gentleman who spends forty pages explaining how he tosses and turns in bed and rumples his sheets is surely enough likely to rumple the patience of his readers. If patience is a bedsheet, which virtue is a pillow? Let us leave this enigma aside and return to the Proustian text whose standing has...

Anagrammatic Sestina

At the end of the furrow, words staple the page, lashing agile lines. None are spared.  The choice is made: it imbricates, recaps white porcelain, tin, polishes carets, better yet, china clay. Rhyming words, ternes bearing sludge with vestiges of tinsel, grown gloomy, kiss-crazed by a queen’s intels caressing your collar like worn petals, your anagram arrives—this time it’s “treens”— in place, on the fingertips of padres. A doctored line, but baited...

Infinity, Minus Forty Yearly Installments: Noun Complements (1972–2012)

1. In September 1972, funded by a scholarship, I took the Orient Express to Vienna. Sixteen-hour journey, upper bunk. Less than enthusiastic about sharing a room in the student hostel, I looked for a studio and moved into 48/18 Fleichgasse, Vienna 15. 2. Certificate in German obtained, composition of a master’s thesis on the relations of words and music in the opera Lulu by Alban Berg. Alongside that, a course in electroacoustics at the Hochshule für Musik. 3. Exploration of...

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

Canada Dry Spoonerisms 1. A Sicilian caterwauls, except in Apulia. 2. The archaeologist’s wife does love a serious excavation. 3. How adroit you are with your crocuses! 4. The seafarer takes a pruning knife to caulk his dinghy. 5. Can someone repair my till? fretted the Druze bag boy. 6. The faithful communicant’s hand lingered on Saint Crispin’s alms-box. 7. Smirking, the abbess palpates the prelate’s brow. 8. The baroness’s ape dips his biscuit in the...

Oubapo: Comics and Constraints from France

Comics are a medium founded on constraints. Even more than prose, comics are subject to rules of sequence and format that to some degree determine the content of each work. Take the common newspaper strip, for example. It's a demanding format: concise humor crammed daily into four or five panels. Newspaper strips are the haiku of comics. American comic books are the product of pulp, quite literally: the coarse newsprint used to print the books made it necessary for artists to use...
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