Claude Berge and the Oulipo (excerpt)
by Denis Bouyssou, Dominique de Werra, Olivier Hudry
The name of Claude Berge is likely to remain in history for several other reasons. For instance he was an expert in the Asmat art from New-Guinea. He was himself a famous sculptor.
We would like here to mention yet another facet of Claude Berge. He was a founding member of Oulipo (for "OUvroir de LItterature POtentielle", i.e., "workroom of potential literature"). This group was created on 24 November 1960 under the impulsion of Raymond Queneau and Francois Le Lionnais (the other founding members were Albert-Marie Schmidt, Jean Queval, Jean Lescure, Jacques Duchateau and Jacques Bens; they were joined later by several well-known members including Italo Calvino, Harry Mattews, Georges Perec and Jacques Roubaud). Oulipo was a group of writers and mathematicians aiming at exploring in a systematic way formal constraints on the production of literary texts. Although poets had explored for years the formal constraints of versification, the originality of the group was to develop new or rarely studied constraints and to explore them systematically. With this objective in mind, the collaboration between writers and mathematicians proved extremely useful and Oulipo is considered to be among the most influential literary groups in France in the twentieth century.