Some weeks ago I received a large letter envelope through the post bearing the stamp of the good Mr Lestaret and so put it to one side so I could give it my full attention later in the day. During the afternoon, I sat down to open the envelope carefully and found inside a protective card bearing the stamp ‘Secret Books’ and a small orange chapbook titled ‘Raymond Queneau – Écritures.
I must confess to knowing absolutely nothing about Raymond Queneau but helpfully, a brief summary of his life and work was printed on the inside cover as follows;
English-speakers have described Raymond Queneau as the James Joyce of Frence Literature. He achieved renown as a writer of novels, poet essayist and founder of the OuLiPo (Workshop For Potential Literature) with a mathematician friend.Raymond was also in charge of an encyclopaedia, worked as an editor and translator, and argued that written French should be pushed towards how French is actually spoken in daily life.
These handwritten pages, originally recorded in a notebook, could be described by the contemporary terms asemic writing or écriture asémique, and expose yet another facet of this ingenious writer.
The book itself is beautifully handcrafted by Lestaret (as always) and contains pages of tiny pictograms, lines of flowing asemic text and other wild outpourings of ink. It’s a fascinating document of a writer whom I suspect is very little known in this country by most people. As a bonus of sorts, the penultimate page is a fantastic simulated collaboration between Tim Gaze and Queneau whilst the final page contains a beautifully rendered portrait of the writer by Lestaret. I’d recommend this superb little artefact to anyone with even a passing interest in asemic writing or experimental artforms.
Secret Books is the work of asemic guru Tim Gaze from Australia and Christopher Skinner, better known to readers as Lestaret. They have a website (here) which gives a fascinating insight into the book and its production as well as a link to Big Cartel where copies can be purchased for the sum of £5. (Direct link here) It is an edition of 100 however so make sure you order a copy quickly to avoid disappointment.
Here are a few fragments of the pages to tempt you even further;
Note: My copy of Écritures (number 50) remains intact, the above illustrations are all simulated. Playing with matches whilst reading a book is not endorsed by the unsubscriber or his affiliates.