Un Rude Hiver, by Raymond Queneau

When I was in college I read Zazie dans le métro, and remember quite liking it.  Some years ago I picked up Exercises de style, which should be read pretty much by anyone who claims to like literature.  So I was predisposed to like Un rude hiver, and the short novel did not disappoint.  Not much plot: a widower and slightly wounded veteran wanders through his life in Le Havre in 1916.  A creepy Lolita-ish theme (you never know whether Lehameau in the end is marrying the prostitute Madeleine or her teenager sister Annette), is perhaps just an excuse for the playing with language.  Did Nabokov read Queneau?  Certainly… and possibly he even read Un rude hiver… there is a Masters thesis here waiting for someone.  For English-speaking readers, Queneau’s transliteration of Lehameau’s occasional attempts to speak English to Miss Weeds (the WAC officer who speaks perfect French) cannot fail but bring a smile.

A very nice review by Didier Garcia is here.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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