One of A hundred thousand billion poems
Raymond Queneau - Coded
The device One of A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems is an exhaustive computational transcription of the singular book Cent Mille Milliards de Poemes (A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems), conceived by french novelist Raymond Queneau in 1961, making use of creative coding tools to broadcast it in an alternative way.
Just as in the original version, it is built to aggregate 100.000.000.000.000 different combinations of texts.
Raymond Queneau was a french novelist and poet, famous for co-founding the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature POtentielle).
The purpose of the group was to challenge the existing forms of literature, by discovering new potentialities to language.
They are famous for applying mathematical challenges to language. This work was the starting point for those experiments.
Mathematician Francois le Lionnais helped Queneau establish a structure for his poems.
Together they built a set of 10 sonnets, with each line on a separate strip (like a flipbook of text).
They follow the same rhyme scheme and the same rhyme sounds and can therefore be combined infinitely, or rather, 10 times to the power of 14 (the number of lines in the poem), for a total of 100.000.000.000.000 different poems.
The book itself is already computational in a way and can be found as a reference in several pieces of research focussing on computation and literature. An important point to note is that the text is integrally transcribed, with no changes. This leads to an open question when considering and developing tools for artistic expression. When R.Queneau wrote the text, he was guided by the framework of the book. How much does the support guide the content? Would he write a different text if it was meant to be received in a computational device?
For example, could the limitations of strings sent through serial be a guide to the length of each sentence?