Queneau was born in Le Havre in 1903 and went to Paris when he was 17. For some time he joined André Breton's Surrealist group, but after only a brief stint he dissociated himself. Now, seeing Queneau's work in retrospect, it seems inevitable. The Surrealists tried to achieve a sort of pure expression from the unconscious, without mediation of the author's self-aware "persona." Queneau's texts, on the contrary, are quite deliberate products of the author's conscious mind, of his memory, his intentionality.
Although Queneau's novels give an impression of enormous spontaneity, they were in fact painstakingly conceived in every small detail. He even once remarked that he simply could not leave to hazard the task of determining the number of chapters of a book. Talking about his first novel, Le Chiendent (usually translated as The Bark Tree), he pointed out that it had 91 sections, because 91 was the sum of the first 13 numbers, and also the product of two numbers he was particularly fond of: 7 and 13.