Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


World Languages and Literatures


Danielle Trudeau


louis, malle, queneau, raymond, traduction, zazie

Subject Areas



In his novel, Zazie dans le métro (1959), Raymond Queneau reinvents the French language while telling the story of a young girl, Zazie, visiting her uncle in Paris for the weekend. The absurdities of the world are examined through her eyes as well as the effort by French society to forget the atrocities of World War II.

Because of its intricate use of language, Queneau's masterpiece seemed impossible to adapt to film. Yet, already in 1960, Louis Malle took it upon himself to convert the renowned novel into a film.

This thesis approaches the film as an intersemiotic translation rather than as a traditional adaptation. It is our contention that Malle strived to pull to pieces conventional film language in order to visually recreate Queneau's treatment of literary language. When analysed as "translation processes," Malle's cinematographic innovations appear to consistently accentuate Queneau's subtle critique of Parisian society of the 50s, making the novel's political element more pronounced.

Through the analysis of several key scenes and characters, this thesis also reveals that many of the changes Malle brought to the novel are linked to the themes of sexuality of women and children in the 50s, the role of homosexuality at that time, and the alienation of the French people during World War II and the decade that followed.