Talk on Oulipo Movement with Mr. Paul Fournel, Winner of the Prix Goncourt, Paris
Which constrained writing techniques and forms did you use in Oulipo?
(And in other, you play with étreinte, rondel, villanelle, pantoum, sonnet?)
Using old constraints, forgotten or not,is an oulipian habit. We have a lot of “anticipatory plagiarists” and we are always revisiting old forms. This is the reason why, in my poetry book “Le bel appétit” for instance, you can find old Villanelle, old rondel alongside recently created Terines or Etreintes.
Your impressions about François Le Lionnais.
He was a great man with an awfull lot of talents. He was not a writer, he was not a mathematician, he was not a great chess player, but he understood all that and was able to deal about almost everything with the best. He had an idea a minute, among those, a fantastic one every hour. He was the one to create Oulipo and to convince Queneau to follow him.
His life was a novel with many dark pages.
His little book “La peinture à Dora” is a masterpiece about concentration camps.
I enjoyed very much, when I was a young oulipian, to go to his place on Route de la Reine, in Boulogne, among cats and books.
When did you first meet Raymond Queneau?
In 1969. I planned to write my “Mémoire de Maîtrise” on him and I asked for a meeting at Gallimard to ask him a few questions. I had 7 questions. He asked me to read them and concluded that they were good questions and that I would have no trouble in finding the answers. Then I left Paris for Princeton University. When I came back, a year later, I brought my Mémoire and the manuscript of my first book. He decided to publish my book at Gallimard and part of my Maitrise in the NRF and he made me a “slave” at Oulipo… So was Mr Queneau…
What is Oulipo understanding of poetry how does it explain poetry, and how do you comprehend it?
François Le Lionnais often said that “La poésie est un art simple et tout d’exécution”.
Oulipo does not “explain” poetry, Ouilpo tries to find constraints for new kinds of poems.Oulipo is not into theory, it is a place of creation. We have no “idea” of what poetry should be or is, but we write poems.
There is ambiguity, formal is understood as classical, and yet Oulipo is avantgardish and experimental?
Oulipo is not an avant-garde and does not want to be. Why “formal” should be “classical”?
Is there a use of Oulipo in your prose writings?
Yes, of course. My novel “La Liseuse” (“Dear Reader”), for example, is a sestina. My novel “Chamboula”is a binary graph.
What experience gave you great Oulipo adventure?
I was still a student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure when I entered Oulipo. That means that I have always be an oulipian. You can imagine what it brought to me : everything I know, more or less.
I “d be grateful if you could give your definition of language, especially written one.
That is a huge question!!! My Mémoire de Maitrise was about “Raymond Queneau et le problème du néo-français” so language was at the center of my problems, especialy in the relation between spoken and written language.
Relations of Oulipo to Theater, and pataphysicism.
Some oulipians write for the theatre ; Jacques Roubaud, Jacques Jouet, Hervé Le Tellier and myself. Some of our plays are based on oulipian constraints other not. Oulipian work is not restricted to poetry.
Does Oulipo batter with sense, and such questions as absurdity, or is it just more positive [formal] in its request?
Not really. Absurdity is not a notion that we use in oulipîan work.
In what way Oulipo follows pataphysical tradition?
Some of the founders of Oulipo were members of the College de Pataphysique. Latis who was in charge of the College has decided that Oulipo should be a “co-commission du Collège”, the “co-commission des imprévisibles”. Apart from this, there is not theoretical link between Oulipo and Pataphysic. Today some oulipians do not belong to Collège and do not want to. We have friends in the College and good human relationship, but nothing in common as far as work is concerned.
Pataphysics is original literal and philosophical value. It posed absurdity in creative manner.
‘Pataphysic’s philosophy and absurdity are concepts that do not operate in oulipian work. ‘Pataphysic goes it’s own way and “absurdity” looks today as something of the past is literature and theatre.
Avant-garde, athleticism, sport endeavor, you are untypical writer in further concept?
I do not feel avant-garde, I do not feel untypical. Sports is a subject as commonplace and legitimate as love for example.
Olimpism, absurdity, byclislism all pioneering you as French avant-gardist
For instance Les Athlètes dans leur tête and then returning to in Besoin de vélo
is questioning the basic values of humanity, is the sport philosophy of man,
or is it absurdity, classical one?
Sport is plainly a human activity, no more absurd than plenty others. It questions the basic values of humanity like every human activity does…
Could you give your definition of athleticism. And sport?
Could sport be pindarian poetry once again?
I have no plan to chant the great athletes of my time – we have plenty of magazines and TV shows for that. I am more into the little pleasures of ordinary amateur athletes and little cracks in the minds of professionals. I stand on the fragile side of sports.