Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle which became: b) an abbreviation: OU.LI.PO.
c) then a proper name: OULIPO, at last becoming d) a true noun in its own right, that is, a substantive admitting of an adjective (oulipien) and of transferences and transformations in other tongues, American English having created the noun "Oulipism" (if I say American English it is because England has thus far proved recalcitrant to the Oulipo), German the adjective oulipisch, and Italian a derivative group, the Oplepo, the original name being here reduced to an etymological origin of what needs to be glossed only in order to explain its genesis) -
In conclusion, what is the Oulipo's general aesthetic policy? Certainly Pythagorean, as is shown by the invention of "Queneau's numbers", a most up-to-date version of the golden mean. But I shall say no more on this point. In the words of the operetta, "some secrets you don't give away".
Translation by Harry Mathews
THE OULIPO COMPENDIUM
is the first book in any language to offer a complete survey of the activities of the Oulipo, a literary group that many consider the most original, productive, and provocative to appear since the second World War. Edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
The Oulipo - in full, the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature - was founded in France in 1960 by the French author Raymond Queneau and the mathematical historian François Le Lionnais. Made up of mathematicians as well as writers, the group assigned itself the task of exploring how mathematical structures might be used in literary creation. The idea of mathematical structure was soon broadened to include all highly restrictive methods, like the palindrome and the sestina, that are strict enough to play a decisive role in determining what their users write. The most notorious example of this approach is Georges Perec's novel, A Void, written without a single appearance of the letter e.
The Believer looks at the (living) masters of Oulipo, recounted in part using the linguistic restraints for which they’re famous.
Ramon Llull (1232-1316).