How I Wrote Certain of My Books by Raymond Roussel / Edited by Trevor Winkfield / ISBN 9781878972149 / 288-page paperback from Exact Change
A secret key to so many artists.
Raymond Roussel (1877–1933), next-door neighbor of Marcel Proust, can be described without exaggeration as the most eccentric writer of the 20th century. His unearthly style based on elaborate linguistic riddles and puns fascinated the Surrealists and famously influenced the composition of Marcel Duchamp's “Large Glass,” but also affected 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 and Harry Mathews, and the painter and author 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.”