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  • Deductions Concerning Marcel Bénabou, Oulipian Author (Notes)
  • Jacques Roubaud (bio)
    Translated by Roxanne Lapidus
  1. 1. Marcel Bénabou was an Oulipian before joining the OULIPO: his experiencing LSD (Littérature Semo-Définitionelle) with Georges Perec, for example, demonstrates this. This is not the sole proof, but let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.

  2. 2. Thus Marcel Bénabou was “oulipian” before being an oulipian—a plagiarist of himself by anticipation. There is nothing surprising in this fact. It’s fair to say that every oulipian has been in some sort an oulipian before becoming a member of the OULIPO. This is equally true, of course, of the founders, François Le Lionnais (FLL) and Raymond Queneau (RQ).

  3. 3. Once he joined the OULIPO, Marcel Bénabou (henceforth designated in these notes as MB) became consciously and actively an oulipian.

  4. 4. The two adverbs “consciously” and “actively” are necessary, as shown by the history of the OULIPO. They cannot be applied unreservedly to all members of the OULIPO.

  5. 5. By “actively,” I’m not just referring to his activities as Secretary (“Definitively Provisional” or “Provisionally Definitive”), nor to his long overseeing of the finances of the group in his role as Treasurer. I want to point out that his participation in the work, in the creation and discussion of constraints, was unflagging.

  6. 6. Every oulipian participates or can participate in all the activities of the OULIPO. But each person has his particular area(s) of predilection, a family of constraints that occupy a good part of his activities.

  7. 7. The oulipian MB is particularly adroit in langage cuit (cooked /prepared language). Following in the footsteps of Robert Desnos, PBA (Plagiarist By Anticipation of the OULIPO), MB works in the area of language that brings together proverbs, sayings, aphorisms, lines from famous authors, set phrases and upset phrases. He accommodates language to new sauces. It thrives from it. [End Page 37]

  8. 8. A second area of MB’s oulipian excellence is erudition (necessary for the practice of langage cuit). This is not surprising, since MB is an historian.

  9. 9. For a long time the two MBs—the historian and the oulipian—have coexisted without excessively influencing one another. Thus there were two MBs, the scholar and the oulipian.

  10. 10. What we didn’t have, or only partially had, was a MB oulipian author (OA).

  11. 11. It is known, or should be known, that the goal of the OULIPO is Potentiality, and that in order to approach potentiality the OULIPO has a strategy—that of Composition under Constraints. The OULIPO explores, borrows, renews, and invents constraints, and proposes them to the community of literary artisans, called Authors (the word Facteur, used by the Rhétoriqueurs [redundantly called “Grands Rhétoriqueurs”] is doubtless better, but unfortunately it cannot be used without risk of confusion). The task of the OULIPO is not the production of Oeuvres (and even less of O-Euvres, which are even more noble than oeuvres).

  12. 12. Thus an oulipian is not necessarily an Author. Further, he can be an Author without being an Oulipian Author—i.e. an Author who uses oulipian constraints in his works.

  13. 13. For a long time, MB was not, properly speaking, an OA

  14. 14. Why?

  15. 15. There are several reasons for this. But I will start with one, in the form of an hypothesis (followed by a second, doubtless linked to the first, but without exploring the ties that may exist between them).

  16. 16. Gertrude Stein said, “If it can be done, why do it?” Let us apply this, in the following attenuated form: why try to be an Oulipian Author if other people are doing it? For MB, it was clear that he could spare himself the excessive effort required by the composition of an oulipian work. After Raymond Queneau (RQ) there was an OA who represented the Oulipian Author par excellence: Georges Perec (GP).

  17. 17. Without ceasing to be an oulipian (the by-laws prohibit it), and without ceasing to be a model OA, GP, in dying, gravely modified this situation.

  18. 18. For Marcel Bénabou, especially, this deplorable event implied a duty: it was necessary that he become an OA.

  19. 19...

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