Shared booklist

BKLYN OuLiPo: rats who build the maze from which they will try to escape

OuLiPo (short for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: "workshop of potential literature") is a group of writers and mathematicians founded in 1960. OuLiPo creates constraints for writers to work within, thus creating "potential literature." Check out the works on this list for a good introduction, and join us this summer at Marcy for some OuLiPo-inspired writing exercises.

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A void

Georges Perec ; translated from the French by Gilbert Adair. |

Perhaps the most famous Oulipian work, A Void (La Disparition) is a novel with no E's about the disappearance of Anton Vowl.

Writing exercises and games: translations


Marcy Library July 26, 11am: Practice experimental and collaborative writing exercises in a fun and supportive environment facilitated by a writer and librarian. Playing with the idea of translation, we will “translate” one another’s sentences into their opposites and translate words into images and images into words.

Life, a user's manual

Georges Perec ; translated from the French by David Bellos. |

In Georges Perec's magnum opus, he imagines an apartment building in Paris with the facade sliced off, making a 10x10 grid, over which the narrator must proceed the way a Knight moves in chess, never landing on the same flat twice.

Exercises in style

by Raymond Queneau ; translated by Barbara Wright ; with new exercises translated by Chris Clarke. |

Oulipo co-founder Raymond Queneau tells the same banal short story 99 times using 99 different styles: from sonnet to onomatopoeia to Cockney.

Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes by Raymond Queneau


"A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems" or "One hundred million million poems" consists of 10 sonnets in which each line can be combined with any of the 9 other poems, making 100,000,000,000,000 poems (more poems than you could read in your lifetime, even if you did nothing but read poems).

Invisible cities

Italo Calvino ; translated from the Italian by William Weaver. |

In what is perhaps Italo Calvino's most beloved book, Marco Polo describes to Kublai Khan the cities he has visited in this travels. The book has a complex mathematical structure.

The castle of crossed destinies

Italo Calvino ; translated from the Italian by William Weaver. |

A series of stories constructed around tarot cards.

What Is the Oulipo?


Mathematician Michèle Audin, whose novel depicts mathematicians in wartime using a variety of documents, gives an inside look at the society--using Oulipian constraints.


Anne Garrâeta ; translated from the French by Emma Ramadan ; introduction by Daniel Levin Becker. |

Sphinx is a love story with no gender markers. First published in France in 1986, it was just published in English in 2015.

The sextine chapel

Hervâe Le Tellier ; translated by Ian Monk. |

26 characters from Anna and Ben to Yolande and Zach, pair up for an intricate crisscrossing of 78 sexual encounters.

Hortense is abducted

Jacques Roubaud ; afterword by the author ; translated by Dominic Di Bernardi. |

In this metafictional mystery, a 22-year-old philosophy student is kidnapped and a dog is murdered - the imaginary country of Poldevia is somehow involved. The novel is arranged in the form of a sestina (replete with authorial asides and plenty of puns, jokes and wordplay).

My beautiful bus

by Jacques Jouet ; translated by Eric Lamb. |

Based on an actual bus trip across France taken by Oulipo-member Jacques Jouet in the late ’80s, his fictional reconstruction of the experience twenty years later focuses not so much on the scenery as on the possibilities offered an author by the eponymous vehicle and its occupants.

Dear reader

Paul Fournel ; translated from the French by David Bellos. |

Old-school publisher meets e-reader: chaos ensues.

Dump this book while you still can! =

Marcel Bâenabou ; translated by Steven Rendall ; with an introduction by Warren Motte. |

Opening a book that has mysteriously appeared amid the clutter of his desk, the narrator finds himself exhorted not to read further, to throw the book away! Instead he tries different strategies for approaching the book, none of which work.