Author: Raymond Queneau
First published: Zazie dans le metro, 1959 (English translation, 1960)
Locale: Paris, France
Time: Thirty-six hours in the mid-1950's
Zazie Lalochère (zah-ZEE lah-loh-SHEHR), a preteenage girl who is nasty, precocious, clever, and vulgar. She has come to Paris for the sole purpose of riding the subway. Unfortunately, the subway workers are on strike. Zazie spends her entire stay griping about life, causing havoc, and setting the people with whom she comes in contact at loggerheads, especially her uncle, Gabriel, whom she suspects of being a homosexual. When, finally, the subway resumes operation, Zazie is so exhausted from her escapades and partying that she misses the entire adventure, although her Paris weekend has nevertheless been a thrilling, eye-opening, and maturing experience.
Gabriel, who works under the stage name of Gabriella as a female impersonator and dancer in a gay nightclub. Tall and muscular, yet graceful, the thirty-two-year-old Gabriel considers his act art and himself an artist. Although he lacks sophistication, at times he waxes philosophical about life's transience. Alternately severe and indulgent with his niece Zazie, he plays his part in the madcap and unbridled events of tourism gone wild by inviting friends, acquaintances, and a busload of foreigners to share in the Paris-by-night activities.
Trouscaillon (trews-ki-YOHN), also known as Pedro-Surplus, Bertin Poirée (pwah-RAY), and Haroun al-Rations, a man of many names and many callings, among them plain-clothes policeman, traffic officer, flea-market vendor, and child molester. For the middle-aged and still attractive Trouscaillon, forgetting his current name and putting on his disguises are done for fun and merriment. He is ineffectual in his police functions, because he has neither police presence nor command of police jargon. He enjoys women of all ages, including young Zazie, but is at heart too fickle to remain faithful to any.
Marceline (mahr-seh-LEEN), Gabriel's wife. A soft-spoken woman, she is very handsome and always well dressed, yet she never goes out, even to the neighborhood café. When she has trouble with Trouscaillon, however, she flees out her apartment window. Upon returning Zazie to her home, Marceline is called Marcel by Zazie's mother.
Charles, a taxi driver. He is Gabriel's best friend and serves as Zazie's guide, despite his very sketchy knowledge of the French capital. At the age of forty-five, he is still looking for the ideal woman, not realizing that she is right there in his favorite bar. Finally, he and Mado, the barmaid, marry, the cause for Gabriel and his guests to enjoy the carnival feast.
Madeleine (Mado) Ptits-pieds (mahd-LEEN ptee-PYAY), a pretty and pleasant barmaid. She marries Charles at last. Thereafter, she is seldom called by her diminutive and nickname, but by her given name, Madeleine.
Turandot (tew-rahn-DOH), a bar owner and Gabriel's landlord. He is gullible, good-hearted, and easily impressed.
Gridoux (gree-DEW), a cobbler, probably in his fifties. He is nosy and arrogant. Along with Laverdure, he is the neighborhood philosopher.
Laverdure (lah-vehr-DEWR), Turandot's parrot. Acting as a Greek chorus, he punctuates (and often deflates) the bar patrons' speech. His most famous one-line rejoinder is “Talk, talk, that's all you can do.”
Madame Mouaque (mew-AHK), a middle-aged and homely but rich and snobbish widow who finds Gabriel, then Trouscaillon, irresistible. She joins the wedding party and, being too cantankerous and noisy, is gunned down by the riot police.
Jeanne Lalochère (zhahn), Zazie's mother. She murdered her husband, allegedly because he tried to rape Zazie; more likely, she wanted to be free of him to pursue other men. She leaves her daughter with Gabriel to reconcile with her current lover.
Fyodor Balanovitch (FYOH-dohr bah-LAH-noh-vihch), a tour guide and friend of Gabriel. He has become blasé over Pigalle nightclub acts and disinterested in the city's celebrated sights.