Raymond Queneau Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Raymond Queneau (kuh-noh), novelist, poet, critic, editor, playwright, filmmaker, philosopher, mathematician, and painter, is regarded as one of the most audacious and ingenious French writers of the twentieth century, with a career spanning the period from Surrealism to the New Novel. Queneau was born in Le Havre at the beginning of the twentieth century. His mother was Josephine Mignot; his father, a businessman, was Auguste Queneau. After completing his studies at the lycée in Le Havre, Raymond Queneau went on to the University of Paris in 1920 and took his degree in philosophy in 1926. That same year he was called to military duty in Algeria and Morocco.

A year later he returned to Paris, where in 1928 he married Janine Kahn, sister-in-law of André Breton, leader of the Surrealist movement. In 1934 they had a son, Jean-Marie, who became a painter. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Queneau took jobs that allowed him a meager income: He worked in a bank, gave private lessons, sold paper tablecloths to inexpensive restaurants, translated books from English into French, and did some journalism, writing a column called “Connaissez-vous Paris?” (Do you know Paris?) for the daily Intransigeant, from 1936 to 1938. In 1938 he became a reader at the prestigious firm Gallimard, which had already published four of his first five books, all novels, and would produce most of his subsequent works.

Queneau’s editorial career was briefly interrupted when he was drafted in August, 1939. Serving in small provincial towns, he was promoted to corporal just before being demobilized in July, 1940. Queneau then returned to Paris. Despite the hardships of World War II, this period was one of intense literary production. In addition to his editorial duties at the Gallimard publishing house, where he became general secretary, he collaborated on clandestine publications and wrote a weekly column for Front National until 1945. He received his credentials as a professional journalist in the same year; however, he was to remain at Gallimard for the rest of his life.


(The entire section is 861 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Raymond Queneau was born on February 21, 1903, in Le Havre, France. His family background was modest; his parents ran a haberdashery. Queneau took his lycée degree in Le Havre in 1920 and then went to Paris to study philosophy. During the following decade he associated with the Surrealists and helped to edit the journal La Révolution surréaliste. For two years, Queneau fulfilled his military service obligation in North Africa; he eventually wrote of the experience in Odile. After his discharge, in 1928, he gained employment at a bank and married Janine Kahn.

Queneau’s career as a novelist received some initial impetus from a voyage to Greece in 1932. There he wrote most of his first novel, The Bark Tree. Once started in his career as a writer, Queneau began to publish frequently in several genres. His first collection of poetry, Chêne et chien (1937), plays off the ambiguous Norman etymology of the Queneau family name, Quêne/Chêne (“oak tree”) and Quenot/Chien (“dog”). In like manner, throughout his career in letters, Queneau would continually seek to blend humor with noble literary aspirations.

The literary contacts Queneau cultivated in his early years led in part to a position with the prestigious French publishing house Gallimard. In 1945, he assumed the role of editor for the Encyclopédie de la Pléiade, a multivolume encyclopedia of history, natural sciences, and...

(The entire section is 479 words.)