Friday, February 11, 2011


Maybe it's impolite or bullying to pick on the most diminutive of months--as if February doesn't catch enough flack already, what with its Valentine's day and its imprecision (is it a leap year? Am I the only one who can't keep track of this?)--but I'm ready to kick the month to the curb. Sure, I can't complain about the weather in San Francisco. I don't have to shovel snow or salt the sidewalk and there's little chance I'll lose my dog in a snowdrift (I don't have a dog, I'm daydreaming), but that doesn't mean I'm not sick of whatever passes for winter here. As it is, everyone is achy and coughing and sniffling and dripping and oozing... winter is just about as unflattering as horizontal stripes on a fat man.

One of the things getting me through the rest of this dreadful and snotty season are piles of publishers' catalogs, treasure troves smelling of warm Spring and Summer days. In particular, I'm really, really excited about the fact that 2011 is shaping up to be, at least as far as I'm concerned, the Year of Raymond Roussel.

Roussel (1877-1933) was an eccentric, to say the least, one whose self-published works were met with at best quizzical reviews upon their initial publication, but that have grown steadily more influential--possibly more so due to their cult status--among artists and poets over the years. Admirers include(d) Marcel Duchamp, John Ashbery, and Harry Mathews, among others. Michel Foucault even wrote a study of Roussel. (That is available as both a paperback and a Google eBook.)

While Roussel's work has previously been published in English translation, at the moment all of his work is currently out-of-print in the U.S. Until March, at least, when Princeton UP will publish a new translation of New Impressions of Africa by Roussel biographer Mark Ford.

In the months following, British publisher Oneworld will release for American fans of the avant-garde both Locus Solus and Impressions of Africa, and in August (I can almost feel the sand between my toes), Dalkey Archive is publishing super-translator Mark Polizzotti's new edition of the aforementioned Impressions of Africa. I don't often get excited about publishing "events," and perhaps I'm a party of one in considering this an event, but I cannot wait to get my hands on this book.

Until then, I'll keep plugging away at Thomas Bernhard, adding misery to February misery.


Anonymous said...

You know, some fat men can really own a set of horizontal stripes.

ge said...

We share a RR obsession-- my copy of Ford is en route, and my summer will likewise be capped by the new Impressions Of Africa trans. ...
+ from what I have read, my favorite Foucault is his Roussel study