French Novelist and Poet. Known for his wit and cynical humor, he is remembered for co-founding the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo). Born in Le Harve, France he received a degree in 1919 for Latin and Greek and another in 1920 for philosophy. He then studied at the Sorbonne from 1921 until 1923, where he was a fair student of both letters and mathematics, graduating with certificates in philosophy and psychology. In 1924 he met and briefly joined the Surrealists cultural movement but never fully shared their automatic writing or ultra-left politics. From 1925 until 1926 he served in the French Army as a zouave in Algeria and Morocco. In 1933 he published his first novel "Le Chiendent" (The Bark-Tree), followed by "Gueule de pierre" (Gob of Stone) (1934), "Les derniers jours" (The Last Days) (1936), "Odile" (1937), "Les enfants du Limon" (Children of Clay) (1938), "Un rude hiver" (1939), "Les temps mêlés" (1941), "Pierrot mon ami" (Pierrot) (1942), and "Loin de Rueil" (The Skin of Dreams) (1944). In 1938 he began working for the Gallimard publishing house in Paris, France. Attracted to mathematics, in 1948 he became a member of la Société Mathématique de France. In 1950 he entered the Collège de ‘Pataphysique where he became Satrap. During this time he also acted as a translator, notably for Amos Tutuola's "The Palm-Wine Drinkard" (L'Ivrogne dans la brousse) in 1953. Additionally, he edited and published Alexandre Kojève's lectures on Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit." As an author, he came to light in France with the publication of his novel "Zazie dans le metro" (1959). In 1960 he and Francois Le Lionnais founded the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo), a loose gathering of primarily French-speaking writers and mathematicians, seeking to create works using constrained writing techniques. His poems include "Chêne et chien" (1937), "Les Ziaux" (1943), "L'Instant fatal" (1946), "Petite cosmogonie portative" (1950), "Battre la champagne" (Beating the Bushes) (1967), and "Courir les rues" (Pounding the Pavements). He died in Paris, France at the age of 73. His honors include election to the Académie Goncourt (1951) and election to the Académie de l'humour (1952).
Bio by: William Bjornstad