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the Complete Review
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Zazie in the Metro

Raymond Queneau

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To purchase Zazie in the Metro

Title: Zazie in the Metro
Author: Raymond Queneau
Genre: Novel
Written: 1959 (Eng.: 1960)
Length: 207 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Zazie in the Metro - US
Zazie in the Metro - UK
Zazie in the Metro - Canada
Zazie dans le métro - Canada
Zazie in the Metro - India
Zazie dans le métro - France
Zazie in der Metro - Deutschland
Zazie nel metró - Italia
  • Translated by Barbara Wright
  • The British edition of the book contains an introduction by Gilbert Adair.
  • French title: Zazie dans le métro
  • Zazie in the Metro was made into a film in 1960 by Louis Malle, starring Philippe Noiret as Uncle Gabriel and Catherine Demongeot as Zazie.

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Our Assessment:

B+ : entertaining and fairly nicely done.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Nation . 24/12/1960 Kenneth Rexroth
New Statesman . 18/6/1960 V.S.Naipaul
The NY Herald Tribune . 11/12/1960 Vernon Hall
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 16/10/1960 Justin O'Brien
The Spectator . 17/6/1960 Ronald Broden
TLS B+ 17/6/1960 .

  Review Consensus:

  No real consensus, though generally fairly positive. Zazie is too wild a lass for some, and all believe something (possibly everything) is lost in the translation.

  From the Reviews:
  • "For all who enjoy the novels of Marcel Aymé and for all lovers of Rabelais and Swift, Zazie is inevitable and required reading." - Justin O'Brien, The New York Times Book Review

  • "It is the verbal skylarking which makes Zazie the entirely delightful book it is. (...) (Barbara Wright) makes a gallant attempt at carrying out a close to impossible task, and achieves many incidental felicities." - Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Precocious country girl Zazie comes to Paris for a few days, entrusted to the hands (and none too watchful eyes) of her Uncle Gabriel. The city proves something of a disappointment: Zazie's greatest wish is to ride the metro, but public transportation workers have gone on strike, making this impossible. Gabriel arranges for taxi rides with a friend of his, but the automobile is hardly a substitute and Gabriel is not an ideal tour guide, unfamiliar with many of the sites, constantly mistaking them.
       The girl is entrusted to Gabriel in part because he has a suspect but harmless job -- dancing, late-nights, dressed up as a woman, in a dubious nightclub -- and is, possibly, a "hormosessual". Zazie herself is an odd mixture of innocence and precociousness.
       Zazie almost immediately runs away to explore the city; a friend of Gilbert's catches her, but she immediately accuses him loudly of having said dirty things to her. Escaping him, she finds herself with another suspect man; to ward off possible danger she recounts how her mother killed her father. And so it goes: Zazie is reunited with Gilbert, puzzles about him, sees much of Paris, meets many interesting people.
       Most of the book is in the form of dialogue, much of it in slang. In her translation Barbara Wright has rendered it in entertaining and readable fashion. It is, on the whole, a fun book, though not always a nice one. Gilbert is a decent enough fellow, but some of Zazie's actions are a bit dubious. Near-pubescent, her self-centeredness and lack of concern for those around her is a bit much -- perhaps to be expected of a younger child, but no longer quite as charming in an older one.
       It is a fun book, and with its cross-section of society examined under Zazie's ruthless gaze it gives a nice picture of Paris life ca. 1960. An entertaining, quick read it can certainly be recommended.

       Note: Zazie in the Metro was made into an excellent film by Louis Malle, with a screenplay by Malle and Queneau. Philippe Noiret is perfectly cast as Gilbert, and Catherine Demongeot makes a fine Zazie. Also recommended.

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Zazie in the Metro: Reviews: Zazie in the Metro - the film:
  • IMDb page on the 1960 Louis Malle film
Raymond Queneau: Other books by Raymond Queneau under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Oulipo books under review
  • See Index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       French author Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is one of the most influential figures in modern French literature. He was General Secretary of the publisher Gallimard, and one of the founders of the Oulipo.

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