Le Lionnais, François 1901–1984

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Le Lionnais, François 1901–1984

PERSONAL: Born 1901, in France; died 1984; son of a pianist. Hobbies and other interests: Chess.

CAREER: Writer and chemical engineer. Worked for French telephone company, Paris; UNESCO, Paris, consultant; Musées Nationaux, Paris, science consultant; producer of radio show La Science en marche for Culture France. Founder of Oulipo (literary workshop). Collèe de Pataphysique, Paris, France, regent; Académie de Sciences, member of scientific-languages committee. Military service: French Resistance; fought during World War II; imprisoned in Dora concentration camp.

MEMBER: Association of Scientific Writers (cofounder; honorary president, 1950).


L'ouverture française 1 é4-é6, Éditions des Cahiers de Échiquier Français (Mayenne, France), 1935.

Le jardin de échecs: tournoi de Moscou, 1935 (title means "The 1935 Moscow Tournament"), Éditions des Cahiers de Êchiquier Français (Mayenne, France), 1936.

Les prix de beautéaux échecs: anthologie de parties d'échecs obtenu des prix de beautédes origines à nos jours (title means "The Beauty Prize of Chess"), Payot (Paris, France), 1939, revised and enlarged edition, 1970.

(Editor) Les grands courants de la pensée mathématique, Cahiers de Sud (Marseille, France), 1948, revised and enlarged, 1962, translation of volume one by R.A. Hall and Howard Bergmann and volume two by Charles Pinter and Helen Kline, published as Great Currents of Mathematical Thought, two volumes, Dover Publications (New York, NY), 1971.

(With others) Le mesure du temps (title means "Measuring Time"), P. Dupont (Paris, France), 1948.

(Translator, with James Roy Newman) Les mathématiques et l'imagination (title means "Math and Imagaination"), P. Payot (Paris, France), 1950.

Le Corbusier: Les Taureax: Recent Paintings: 1952–55, January 17-February 11, 1956, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, translated by Louise Varèse, Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York, NY), 1956.

L'imitation de la pensée crétrice par les machines: conférence faite au palais de la Découverte le 22 juin, 1957, Alençon Imprimerie (Alençon, France), 1957.

La méthode dans les sciences modernes, Éditions Science et Industrie (Paris, France), 1958.

Le temps, edited by R. Delpire, Encyclopédie Essentielle (Paris, France), 1959, translated by William D. O'Gorman, Jr., as Time, Orion Press (New York, NY), 1960.

(With J. Bessemoulin and others) La prévision du temps, suivi de: peut-on modifier le temps qu'il fait? et de: Le monde des nuages (title means "Weather Predicion," "Can We Change the Weather," and "The World of Clouds"), Éditions les Yeux Ouverts (Paris, France), 1962.

(With Raymond Queneau and others) Oulipo, 1964.

(With Ernst Maget) Dictionnaire des échecs (title means "Chess Dictionary"), Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1967.

(With Noël Arnaud and Carelman) Poèmes ALGOL (title means "Poems Made with the Assistance of the ALGOL Computer Program"), Temps Mélés (Verviers, Belgium), 1968.

Le jeu d'échecs, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1974.

(Editor) Alain Bouvier and Michel George, Dictionnaire des mathématiques, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1979.

Tempêtes sur l'échiquier, Librairie Belin (Paris, France), 1981.

(With Jean Brette) Les nombres remarquables, Hermann (Paris, France), 1983.

(With Raymond Queneau) Cent mille milliards de poèmes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1985.

Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (contains "Lipo: First Manifesto" and "Second Manifesto"), translated by Warren Motte, Jr., University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1986.

(Editor) Elie Lévy, Dictionnaire de physique, Presses Universitaires de France (Paris, France), 1988.

Un certain disparate: (fragments); suivi d'un témoignage de Jacqes Roubaud et d'un rapport de commission, Bibliothèque Oulipienne (Paris, France), 1997.

La peinture à Dora, Echoppe (Paris, France), 1999.

Contributor to books, including Lewis Carroll, Éditions de l'Herne (Paris, France), 1971; and Oulipo Laboratory: Texts from the Bibliothèque oulipienne, translated by Harry Matthews, Iain White, and Warren Motte, Jr., [London, England], 1995. Contributor of scientific articles to periodicals. Le Lionnais's works have been translated into Spanish, Japanese, and German.

SIDELIGHTS: Although trained as a chemical engineer, François Le Lionnais served as a mathematician and disseminator of scientific information during most of his life. When he was still in his twenties, he was part of the Parisian artistic circle that included such innovators as Max Jacob, Jean Dubuffet, and Raymond Roussel. While working for the telephone industry, Le Lionnais used his mathematics skills to develop automation. He was involved in the development of computers and artificial intelligence. A passionate chess enthusiast who owned over three thousand books about chess, he also wrote a handful of books himself on the topic.

In 1960, along with fellow author Raymond Queneau, Le Lionnais founded the literary group Oulipo, an acronym for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle ("Workshop of Potential Literature"). Unlike other writers and poets of their time who were experimenting with free verse, the members of Oulipo used the restrictions of literary forms to spark creativity. They created their own parameters, such as Le Lionnais's formula n + 7, which indicates that the poet was to translate an existing poem by finding the seventh word after each existing word in the dictionary. With Queneau, he created Cent mille milliards de poèmes, a flip-the-page book that allows readers to create over a thousand different sonnets. Le Lionnais also wrote two manifestos in which he explains the rationale behind the group's efforts. As a whole, Oulipo published its creations and formulas in some six dozen booklets, some of which were later collected in Oulipo Laboratory: Texts from the Bibliothèque oulipienne, which contains several booklets published between 1976 and 1995.

Although Raymond Queneau is the most well-known member of the group, both he and Le Lionnais served as leaders of the group's weekly meetings in Paris. After the deaths of its leaders, Oulipo has continued, though it has never been a very well-known group, even among the French.



Le Lionnais, François, Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1986.


Magazine Littéraire, May, 2001, Paul Braffort, "François Le Lionnais, encyclopédisparate," pp. 45-49.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1999, Warren Motte, review of Oulipo Compendium, p. 173.


Fatrazie, http://www.fatrazie.com/ (June 9, 2005), "François Le Lionnais."

Word Work, http://www.wordwork.org/ (July 16, 2002), William Gillespie, "The Oulipo: Constraints and Collaboration."

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Le Lionnais, François 1901–1984

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