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The Blue Flowers (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – April 17, 1985

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

About the Author

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is acknowledged as one of the most influential of modern French writers, having helped determine the shape of twentieth-century French literature, especially in his role with the Oulipo, a group of authors that includes Italo Calvino, Georges Perec, and Harry Mathews, among others.

Barbara Wright has translated several Raymond Queneau novels; indeed, as John Updike wrote in The New Yorker, she "has waltzed around the floor with the Master so many times by now that she follows his quirky French as if the steps were in English." She has also translated works by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget, Nathalie Sarraute, and Marguerite Duras. She lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook (Book 595)
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (April 17, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811209458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811209458
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
'The Blue Flowers' is the most lovable of all Raymond Queneau's novels, one of those rare books you never want to end (for me, the only others I can think of are 'Huckleberry Finn' and 'Dance to the music of time'). It relates two paralell narratives (or rather - and Queneau is the great mathematical novelist! - base and perpendicular narratives): the historical narrative of the endearingly aggressive Duc d'Auge, nay-sayer to royal authority and public opinion, friend of Gilles de Rais and the Marquis de Sade, and debunker of religion to the extent of daubing on caves in the Perigord region to 'prove' the existence of humanity before Adam; his three daughters, including the defective, bleating Phelise, and their small-minded spouses; his squire Mouscaillot and their talking horses, philosophical Demosthenes and taciturn Stef; and his clerical foils, the abbes Biroton and Riphinte. We meet the Duke at 175 year historical intervals - refusing to rejoin the barbarous crusades in 1264, and forced to slaughter disapproving bourgeoisie; investing in new weaponry, most notably the cannon, in defence of his castle in 1439; dabbling in alchemy in 1614; fleeing the French Revolution in 1789. Throughout he hunts, visits the capital, marries woodcutters' young daughters, feasts ferociously, and debates with his clergy.
From the terrifying active Duke, the contemporary story focuses on passive Cidrolin, once wrongly convicted for a crime for which he is still persecuted by an unknown graffiti artist who daubs obscene accusations on his fence every night. Now living on a barge, drinking endless glasses of essence of fennel, he doesn't do much, giving directions to tourists, staring at construction sites or the nearby camping site.
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Format: Paperback
Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) provided a summary of his novel "The Blue Flowers" (1965): "...'I dream that I am a butterfly and pray there is a butterfly dreaming he is me.' The same can be said of the characters in my novel...". The plot wigwags between the bedlam-inducing Duke of Auge (clobbering his way through History at 200 year clips) and the perennially-dozy Cidrolin (fixed to the '60s and his barge on the Seine).
Is one dreaming the other? That is the basic conceit of this lavishly surreal and philosophically-rich novel.
I espeially recommend this title to readers who enjoy books by Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco & Georges Perec.
Did I mention the talking horses?
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Format: Paperback
Think of a book with two main characters and you cannot tell which one is actually living or is just the dream of the other. Well, if it sounds strange it is normal. If you dream of being a butterfly, couldn't it be that in fact it is the butterfly that dreams being you ? This book full of humour, joy and adventures will capture your attention. And if you read it carefully maybe you won't miss a very interesting conception of Time, Life and History that lays behind the lines not so far from the Hegel's one.
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Format: Paperback
Queneau is a master, as is his translator Barbara Wright. I don't think you will find a translation that communicates more of the book's essence than this one. Every sentence is a play on words and meaning...Wright manages to take Queneau's French "jokes" and make them equally artistic English ones. This book is a delight in its entirety, perfectly deliberate and crafted, yet whimsical, personal, rambling, historical, and more all at once. It is as forward-thinking as Joyce's Ulysses, and in my opinion as important a primer for the ultimate literature.
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