By means of modern (or future) science and industry
we could very well move the historic monuments
and stick ‘em all in the same neighborhood
which we would have previously razed
that way there would be side by side the Eiffel Tower
the Sacré-Coeur Saint-Honoré-d’Eylau
Sainte-Chapelle le Tribunal de Commerce les Deux-Magots
le musée d’Ennery et cetera
which would avoid having tourists
spread themselves thoughtlessly throughout the city streets
Raymond Queneau was born in 1903 in Le Havre and is one of the most influential French authors of the twentieth century. “Urbanism” is from his book Courir les rues (Pounding the Pavements), which has not been translated into English in its entirety. Queneau was at the forefront of the surrealist movement of the 1920s, the Collège de ’Pataphysique in 1950s, and the Oulipo, or Ouvrier du Littérature Potentiel (Workshop of Potential Literature), which continues today. With several novels published, among them the prize-winning Le Chiendent, Queneau became an editor at Éditions Gallimard. During the Occupation, Queneau refused to take part in the collaborationist La nouvelle revue française and worked in secret on Resistance publications. After the war he was a prominent character in the circle of artists and intellectuals that frequented St. Germain-des-Près. Fascinated by numerology, psychoanalysis, and linguistics, he joined the Mathematical Society of France in 1948 and was elected to Académie Goncourt in 1951. In 1954 he became director of the Encyclopédie de la Pléiade. His best-known novel, Zazie dans le métro, was made into a movie by Louis Malle in 1959.
Translator Rachel Galvin is a writer and editor for Humanities, the journal of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has received fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hedgebrook. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Spinning Jenny, Mars Hill Review, Comstock Review, and Nimrod.