Image: Killoffer, "La Manif," 2009, Graphite on Paper 48 x 63 cm, Courtesy of Galerie Anne Barrault
This month we're showcasing the sparkling innovations in form and literature produced by the members of the Oulipo. The Paris-based literary collective explores how literature might arise from structures, rules, and constraints, working within restrictions—alphabetical, narrative, rhythmic, metric—to set genres and language loose. Ian Monk's tour of an apartment building maintains a strict numeric unity in lines and words. Olivier Salon travels through a gradually dwindling alphabet. Michèle Métail claims a chain of possessives, and Anne F. Garréta offers a rogue reading of Proust. In playing with poetic forms, Jacques Bens finds sonnets easy as pi, and Jacques Jouet extends the sestina. And François Caradec's aphorisms offer less than meets the eye. Guest editor and translator Daniel Levin Becker provides a useful key to the considerations at play in both French and English versions. Join us in marveling at the verbal gymnastics of the writers, and at the dazzling ingenuity of the translators.
Our feature presents writing from Sudan, as Max Shmookler introduces three stories of estrangement by Nagi Al-Badawi, Adil al-Qassas, and Sabah Babiker Ibraheem Sanhouri. And we're delivering the second installment of Sakumi Tayama's "Spirit Summoning," in which a pair of fraudulent mediums deliver unexpected results.
Words with Borders: Writing from the Oulipo
To write an Oulipian text is both to draw a picture and to solve a puzzle.
The Stations of the Cry
Hear Haydn’s cry at the court of the Prince, and his symphony.
Seven Irrational Sonnets
Committing blasphemy’s no parlor game.
Melody in A Flat
in the basement she coughs then lights a smoke
To sleep, perchance to dream
I have long suspected that the public, exoteric text of Remembrance of Things Past is a fake.
At the end of the furrow, words staple / the page, lashing agile lines. None are spared.
Infinity, Minus Forty Yearly Installments: Noun Complements (1972–2012)
On every banknote that passed through my hands I wrote one verse.
The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Smirking, the abbess palpates the prelate’s brow.