The Penguin Book of Oulipo, ed. Philip Terry
Founded in Paris in 1960, OULIPO (The ‘Workshop of Potential Literature’) has been delighting readers ever since with a stream of often highly eccentric mathematics-based new written forms, some surreal, some very funny and some simply annoying.
At its heart lies the work of Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec and Italo Calvino and this anthology celebrates some of their most enjoyable inventions, but also the work of many more less well-known figures. There is an important place in Oulipo for ‘Anticipatory Plagiarism’ – work by writers such as Carroll, Swift and Herbert whose lives, for merely temporal reasons, predate Oulipo’s founding. These include pieces such as Swift’s Writing Engine and Carroll’s Pool of Tears.
This is one of those books which deserves a permanent place on a small table next to the bed: anyone reading it from cover to cover would be stark mad by page 126, but it is magical to dip into randomly. My current favourite is an entirely successful attempt to rewrite Poe’s The Raven without using the letter e – a particularly insane task, given that it’s most famous line — Quoth the Raven “Nevermore” — includes five of them.
Simon, Publishing Director