We Always Treat Women Too Well
by Raymond Queneau
Translated from the French by Barbara Wright
We Always Treat Women Too Well was for many years a secret work of Raymond Queneau, one of the most highly regarded French literary figures of this century. As a novelist, poet, scholar, mathematician and philosopher, he tackled some of the most serious scientific and philosophical problems of our age with insight and erudition while also writing witty and stylistically experimental fiction that has earned him a popular readership. We Always Treat Women Too Well was first presented to the public under the guise of a novel by a young Irish writer, Sally Mara, translated into French by “Michael Presle,” the pseudonym Queneau adapted partly as a joke, and partly because the apparently obscene content of the book might have been misunderstood at the time. Now, at last, in this elegant translation by Barbara Wright, the novel can be seen for what it is: a satirical masterpiece set in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. It is the story of the siege of a small post office overlooking the Liffey, taken by a group of rebels, who find to their embarrassment that a female postal clerk, rejoicing in the name Gertie Girdle, is still in the lavatory some time after they have shot or expelled the rest of the staff and the siege has begun. The events that follow are not for prudish readers, because it is not just blood that flows, but the narrative is always scintillating, fast moving, linguistically delightful—and humorous in a way that stretches from dry wit to the hilarious.