Oulipo recipes

From Algolit

Type: Algoliterary Work
Datasets: Human inspiration, Wordnet, 1984 by George Orwell, objects of a handbag
Technique: Quicksort, Markov Chain
Developed by: Oulipo, Marcel Bénabou, Tony Hoare, Allen Downey, Andrey Markov, Consonni, Algolit

Download the scripts

L'Abécédaire, a game

L'Abécédaire is a text of which the first letters of each word follow the alphabetical order. The Quicksort-algorithm is a fruitful algoritme to play l’abécédaire as a game, inside or on the street.

Quicksort is invented in 1960 by Tony Hoare, a visiting student from Oxford at the University of Moscou. He developed Quicksort to alphabetically order Russian words as part of a translation machine. Nowadays Quicksort is part of the standard programmingsystems such as Unix, C, C++.

This Hungarian dance company executes the Quicksort as a performance: Quicksort Dance

Play l'Abécédaire as a game, developed by Algolit: Abecedaire rules

Littérature définitionnelle, Marcel Bénabou, 1966

Each element of a sentence is replaced by one of its definitions from a dictionary. You can infinitely reiterate this operation on the transformed text. For this digital recipe we randomly select sentences from Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and use the machine readable dictionary Wordnet as a source for definitions.

WordNet is a lexical database for the English language created in the Cognitive Science Laboratory of Princeton University since 1985. It groups English words into sets of synonyms called synsets, provides short definitions and usage examples, and records a number of relations among these synonym sets or their members. WordNet can thus be seen as a combination of dictionary and thesaurus. While it is accessible to human users via a web browser, its primary use is in automatic text analysis and artificial intelligence applications. The database and software tools have been released under a BSD style license and are freely available for download from the WordNet website.

Oulipo (French pronunciation: ​[ulipo], short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: "workshop of potential literature") is a loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Other notable members have included novelists Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, poets Oskar Pastior, Jean Lescure and poet/mathematician Jacques Roubaud. The group defines the term 'littérature potentielle' as: "the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy."

Constraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration, most notably Perec's "story-making machine", which he used in the construction of Life A User's Manual. As well as established techniques, such as lipograms (Perec's novel A Void) and palindromes, the group devises new methods, often based on mathematical problems, such as the knight's tour of the chess-board and permutations. Marcel Bénabou is a member of OuLiPo since 1969, which he joined one year after his friend Georges Perec, the following year he became the definitively provisional secretary. Since 2003 he combines this function with that of provisionally definitive secretary.

A Novel Starring You, from Think Python, by Allen Downey, 2012

A Novel Starring You shows how you can invent new recipes in the style of Oulipo. On the Internet websites pop up that offer you personalized romance books for which you can provide the names, features and places, customize over 30 characteristics - even include your dog or cat.

A Novel Starring You shows how you can also personalize existing novels, like this fragment, the opening scene of George Orwell's 1984. It uses word substitution, a very basic function in the Python programming language.

Markov Chain, a game

Markov Chain was developed in 1906 by Andrey Markov, a Russian mathematician who died in 1992. This algorithm is part of many spam generating softwares. It is applied in systems that describe respective dependent events. What happens, only depends of the output of the previous step. That is why Markov Chains are also called ‘memory less’.

This game was developed in two versions, one using sentences and a writing card system (in collaboration with Brendan Howell, Catherine Lenoble and Désert Numérique, 2014); and a version using objects (in collaboration with Consonni, Bilbao: Itziar Olaizola, Emanuel Cantero, Pablo Mendez, Ariadna Chezran, Iñigo Benito, Itziar Markiegi, Josefina Rocco, Andrea Estankona, Mawa Tres (Juan Pablo Orduñez), Maria Ptqk, 2015).