Like his hero Lewis Carroll, Raymond Queneau was a polyglot, and a mathematician with a love of patterns, forms and games. He wrote a study of dog language in Carroll's 'Sylvie and Bruno', and 'Zazie' is his update of Alice to the Parisian Wonderland of the late 1950s, although it is not clear whether Zazie is an anti-Alice, bringing chaos to a normal society, or whether she is a precocious, sensible, curious (if foul-mouthed) child faced with a blinkingly unstable universe: Zazie is notably passive in the book's final third, when the linguistic, philosophical, temporal, narrative, spatial and sexual dissolutions collapse into a frenzy of barmy physical violence.
the book as a whole sees Rabelais and Diderot rewriting the Arabian Nights. Each chapter plays like a Ionesco drama, a sustained, rhythmic dialogue where the disparity between bizarre event and the disintegrating attempts of language to express it, creates a gap where logic contracts, explodes and comes back together in an hilarious anti-logic. Not only are the borders of dream and reality, plausibility and fantasy, role play and identity broken down, but Queneau's narrative procedures - at once Joycean in its plenitude, and startling in its gaping ellipses - further confuse the reader.
'Zazie' is Queneau's most 'plausible' novel, in that much of its fun lies in its Parisian locales, and its comedy at the expense of romantic cliches about the city; but it is also a true Surrealist novel, both in breaking down the normality of the real, and in asserting that the only way you can get what you want is to dream.