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Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel

26 April 2012
Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... I have travelled a great deal,’ RaymondRoussel wrote towards the end of his life, ‘but from all these travels I never took anything for my books.’ It’s an odd thing to hear from the author of Impressions d’Afrique (1910) and Nouvelles ...

Champion of Words

John Sturrock

15 October 1987
Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond​ Roussel 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Charles Ruas.
Athlone, 186 pp., £29.50, April 1987, 0 485 11336 8
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Raymond RousselLife, Death and Works. Essays and stories by various hands 
Atlas, 157 pp., £5.50, September 1987, 0 947757 14 7Show More
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... Michel Foucault, for once and for now, may stand aside: who is the RaymondRoussel about whom he wrote this, his one real essay into literature? Roussel was a writer, of sorts, of the early 20th century; a man both glamorously rich and mentally odd. His money he spent to the hilt in the furtherance of his oddness, for Roussel laboured to write the ...

In the Anti-World

Nicholas Jenkins: Raymond Roussel

6 September 2001
Raymond Roussel​ and the Republic of Dreams 
by Mark Ford.
Faber, 312 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 17409 4
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... In 1924 the Surrealist Benjamin Péret was eager, like many artists then and since, to relate his own interests to the works of the rich, bizarre and innovative French poet, novelist and playwright RaymondRoussel. In Paris, Péret contacted Roussel’s business manager, hoping to arrange a meeting with the man whom Louis Aragon called ‘the President of the Republic of Dreams’. Members of the ...

Heavy Lifting

John Palattella: John Ashbery

7 June 2001
Other Traditions 
by John Ashbery.
Harvard, 168 pp., £15.50, October 2000, 0 674 00315 2
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John Ashbery and American Poetry 
by David Herd.
Manchester, 245 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 7190 5597 0
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... quickened Ashbery’s work without dominating his style. He has assembled them here as a tradition without, of course, marshalling them into a Great Tradition. Five of them – the exception being RaymondRoussel – he reads habitually ‘in order to get started; a poetic jump-start for times when the batteries have run down’. The surprise is that instead of lecturing on Wallace Stevens, William ...
22 May 1997
... The French Writer RaymondRoussel was 56 years old when he left Paris for Sicily in the early summer of 1933. It seems clear he had no intention of ever returning to France. His theatrical extravaganzas, legendary generosity and ...

Anticipatory Plagiarism

Paul Grimstad: Oulipo

6 December 2012
Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature 
by Daniel Levin Becker.
Harvard, 338 pp., £19.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06577 2
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... is probably the best known of the works associated with the group of writers and mathematicians comprising the Ouvroir de Littérature potentielle, or Oulipo. Founded by François Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau, the group devoted itself to inventing, analysing and sometimes applying constraints for the making of literature. The idea arose in the autumn of 1960 at a colloquium on Queneau’s work at ...

Diary

David Gascoyne: Notebook, New Year 1991

25 January 1996
... lunch. Made prune and apple mousse with calvados. De Gaulle programme BBC2. Stayed up late to see repeat of Twin Peaks. Kept me awake. Some almost magic moments. ‘Owls are not what they seem’: RaymondRoussel/Cocteau’s Orphée. Sunday 20: Made oeufs florentine. Second programme on de Gaulle BBC2. Brought back a vivid memory of watching the news at the Tour de César near Aix – a splendid view ...

Ackerville

Gary Indiana: Nymphomania, antic incest and metaphysical torment

14 December 2006
Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker 
edited by Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman and Avital Ronell.
Verso, 120 pp., £10.99, May 2006, 9781844670666
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... social construction of identity in her novels by continually disrupting the reader’s sense of who is speaking, of who is ‘I’ and who is the Other. The effect is reminiscent of early Dada, or of RaymondRoussel. Acker attempted many acrobatic violations of literary convention. Her most successful fight was with the 19th-century novel; it’s when she took on the Modernist canon that her work most ...
20 March 2014
Blinding: Volume I 
by Mircea Cărtărescu, translated by Sean Cotter.
Archipelago, 464 pp., £15.99, October 2013, 978 1 935744 84 9
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... work. Pynchon’s Trystero points to the instability and anxiety underlying arrangements in the real world; Cărtărescu’s Those Who Know is a purely fantastical device that might be the work of RaymondRoussel. As with Cărtărescu’s use of philosophy, history and memory, even his conspiracy theories are folded into the generative messiness of the novel, which is both ‘messy’ and coherent ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo

29 April 1999
Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... it a name: “Gnat-dirt upset on drab pot toilet.” ’ The Oulipo has been going about its palindromic and associated verbal business for almost forty years, having been launched by Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau in 1960, and having held monthly meetings designed for the convivial incitement of its members ever since. No sooner was it started than it was understandably co-opted as a ‘sub-committee ...
8 February 1990
A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... only in passing, and the lineage of the intellectual, highly literate comedy to which they belong is wholly obscured: the father of ’pataphysics, Alfred Jarry, comes and goes in a single sentence, Raymond Queneau is made to sound quite a solemn fellow, RaymondRoussel and Boris Vian are no more than names, and poor Georges Perec, unforgivably, is not even that. This is the saddest omission of all. The ...

In the Circus

William Wootten: Low-Pressure Poetry

3 August 2006
The Collected Poems 
by Kenneth Koch.
Knopf, 761 pp., £40, November 2005, 1 4000 4499 5
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... at passing trains while wearing a gorilla mask. In 1950 he went on a Fulbright to Aix-en-Provence. Not only did he immerse himself in modern French poetry, and acquire an (at the time) rare taste for RaymondRoussel, but everyday hearings and mishearings gave rise to a ‘happy confusion’ where words would have ‘several meanings for me at once’. In response, Koch began the experiments he later ...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley

18 May 2000
To Ireland, I 
by Paul Muldoon.
Oxford, 150 pp., £19.99, March 2000, 0 19 818475 1
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Bandanna 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.99, February 1999, 0 571 19762 0
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The Birds 
translated by Paul Muldoon, by Richard Martin.
Gallery Press, 80 pp., £13.95, July 1999, 1 85235 245 0
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Reading Paul Muldoon 
by Clair Wills.
Bloodaxe, 222 pp., £10.95, October 1998, 1 85224 348 1
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... The Bangle (Slight Return)’ that concludes Hay. In his combination of extreme secrecy and strategic revelation to favoured critics and in interviews, Muldoon is not unlike that other cryptographer, RaymondRoussel, who, fearing that his grand schemes would go unappreciated by posterity, told all in Comment j’ai écrit certains de mes livres. If the puzzles in Muldoon’s work were exhaustible simply ...

Fronds and Tenrils

Helen Vendler: Mark Ford

29 November 2001
Soft Sift 
by Mark Ford.
Faber, 42 pp., £7.99, May 2001, 0 571 20781 2
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...  clarified. Soft Sift is Mark Ford’s second book of poems (the first, Landlocked, was a notable production, comic and desperate by turns) and his critical book on the eccentric French writer RaymondRoussel appeared last year. Ford has absorbed technical possibilities from Roussel’s stylistic obsessions, Ashbery’s montages (he wrote his DPhil on Ashbery) and the insouciance of Frank O’Hara ...

Rubbing Shoulders with Unreason

Peter Barham: Foucault's History of Madness

8 March 2007
History of Madness 
by Michel Foucault, edited by Jean Khalfa, translated by Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa.
Routledge, 725 pp., £35, April 2006, 0 415 27701 9
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... in the mid-18th century by Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau, ‘it was more than half a century again before anyone dared revisit such a region.’ Not just Hölderlin, but Nerval, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, RaymondRoussel and Antonin Artaud ‘ventured there with tragic consequences . . . to the point at which the alienation of the experience of unreason pushed them into the abandonment of madness’. Here ...

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