Pierrot Mon Ami

Pierrot Mon Ami

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By Raymond Queneau

Translated by Barbara Wright

ISBN: 9781628974614

Publication Date: 9/26/23

Pierrot Mon Ami, considered by many to be one of Raymond Queneau’s finest achievements, is a quirky coming-of-age novel concerning a young man’s initiation into a world filled with deceit, fraud, and manipulation. From his short-lived job at a Paris amusement park where he helps to raise women’s skirts to the delight of an unruly audience, to his frustrated and unsuccessful love of Yvonne, to his failed assignment to care for the tomb of the shadowy Prince Luigi of Poldevia, Pierrot stumbles about, nearly immune to the effects of duplicity.

This “innocent” implies how his story, at almost every turn, undermines, upsets, and plays upon our expectations, leaving us with more questions than answers, and doing so in a gloriously skewed style (admirably re-created by Barbara Wright, Queneau’s principal translator).

Other Books by Raymond Queneau

Sally Mara's Intimate Diary

The Last Days


“We always feel good reading a Queneau novel; he is the least depressing of the moderns, the least heavy, with something Mozartian about the easy, self-pleasing flow of his absurd plots.” —John Updike, The New Yorker

“Raymond Queneau’s books are ambiguous fairylands in which scenes of everyday life are mingled with a melancholy that is ageless. Though they are not without bitterness, their author seems always to set his face against conclusions, and to be moved by a kind of horror of seriousness. ‘Foolishness,’ according to Flaubert, ‘consists of wanting to reach a conclusion.’ One can imagine those words as the epigraph to Queneau’s Pierrot Mon Ami" —Albert Camus

"Queneau has long been considered by the French to be a writer of ingenuity, wit and singular intelligence." —Publishers Weekly

"I must underline here the importance of the novels of Raymond Queneau, whose texture often and whose movement always are strictly those of the imagination.” —Alain Robbe-Grillet

“Loopily clever . . . inexhaustibly inventive, unremittingly disconcerting, overflowing with subversive energy, surrealistic wit, and rough-edged whimsy . . . All [of Barbara Wright's] translations, including this one, are triumphs of ingenuity. After reading her English version of Pierrot Mon Ami, I raced through Queneau's original in delighted admiration . . . It is full of sentences which dizzy the reader with the hilarity of their close-packed variety of tone: low argot sabotages an elaborate metaphor in elevated language like Harpo Marx goosing Margaret Dumont . . . Queneau's books deserve a wider audience than they have yet won in this country. Anyone who has read one of Wright's translations has probably read them all, and will go out and get this one without needing to be urged. But if you haven't read one already, Pierrot Mon Ami would be an excellent introduction. I must warn you that a taste for Queneau can escalate quite easily into an addiction, but you shouldn't let that stop you, because most good book stores here offer three or four of Wright's translations in paperback, and he's even more fun to re-read than to read.” —Cityweek

“A brilliant, quirky novel by a French novelist whose reputation continues to grow in America.” —Kirkus Reviews

Pierrot Mon Ami is a poem on chance and destiny, on the relationship between what should have happened and what actually does happen . . . Pierrot represents one of the main types of the Queneau hero: the simpleton who is a natural poet and who passes through the world without understanding it, without seeking to understand it. In an absurd and meaningless universe this is the most rational and least foolish of all possible attitudes: the taking of life as it comes, without thought of the morrow, and with the resulting freedom to enjoy its simple pleasures.” —Martin Esslin

Biographical Information

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is acknowledged as one of the most influential of modern French writers, having helped determine the shape of twentieth-century French literature, especially in his role with the Oulipo, a group of authors that includes Italo Calvino, Georges Perec, and Harry Mathews, among others.

Barbara Wright is one of the premier English translators of modern French literature. In addition to Raymond Queneau, she has translated such authors as Alfred Jarry, Nathalie Sarraute, Pierre Albert-Birot, and Patrick Modiano.