How I Wrote Certain of My Books

Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), next-door neighbor of Marcel Proust, can be described without exaggeration as the most eccentric writer of the twentieth century. His unearthly style based on elaborate linguistic riddles and puns fascinated the Surrealists, above all Duchamp, but also writers as diverse as Gide, Robbe-Grillet, and Foucault (author of a book-length study of Roussel). The title essay of this collection is the key to Roussel’s method, and it is accompanied by selections from all his major works of fiction, drama, and poetry, translated by his New York School admirers John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Harry Mathews, and Trevor Winkfield. Ashbery writes that Roussel’s work is "like the perfectly preserved temple of a cult which has disappeared without a trace… we can still admire its inhuman beauty, and be stirred by a language that seems always on the point of revealing its secret."

"The President of the Republic of Dreams." — Louis Aragon

"The translations are all first-rate… the best way to get a sense of Roussel’s linguistic density is through the title essay, and through Winkfield’s excellent notes." — ArtForum

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