Zazie in the Metro, 2013

This was taken last Friday on Platform 3 of Charing Cross station, London, UK (so, not the Metro and almost definitely not someone called Zazie).

Zazie in the Metro  is a novel by Raymond Queneau. It was published in 1959. The edition on our shelves was published in 2000 and was translated into English by Barbara Wright.

The book was Raymond Queneau’s first commercial success (a fact which bothered him somewhat because he considered the book lightweight), and was written in colloquial French. Queneau was a poet, novelist and co-founder of the literary/ mathematical group, Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo)*.

Here’s what it says on the back cover: “Impish, foul-mouthed Zazie arrives in Paris from the country to stay with her female-impersonator Uncle Gabriel. All she really wants to do is ride the metro, but finding it shut because of a strike, Zazie looks for other means of amusement and is soon caught up in a comic adventure that becomes wilder and more manic by the minute.”

And here’s the first paragraph:

Howcanaystinksotho, wondered Gabriel, exasperated. Ts incredible, they never clean themselves. It says in the paper that not eleven percent of the flats in Paris have bathrooms, doesn’t surprise me, but you can wash without. They can’t make much of an effort, all this lot around me. On the other hand, it’s not as if they’ve been specially hand-picked form the dosses of Paris. Zno reason. They’re only here by accident. You really can’t assume that people who meet people at the Gare d’Austerlitz smell worse than people who meet people at the Gare de Lyon. No really, zno reason. All the same, what a smell.

Frankly, it’s hilarious and I vigorously recommend you read it.

In 1960, Louis Malle adapted the book for cinema. It has also been staged as a play and been published as a comic book.

In our house, this book can be found: sitting room, right-hand bookshelves, third shelf down.

* Georges Perec, who I wrote a bit about here was also a member.

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Thanks to the usual suspects (John, Deanne and Terry) for title shenanigans and Richard at CK Ponderings for being a super-cool collaborator. Our latest collaboration can be found one post back.

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