Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews (1930–2017) was born in New York City and spent his adult life in the United States and France. Along with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler, he was a founding editor of the literary journal Locus Solus. He was the first American member of the Oulipo, a provocative literary group in Paris. Mathews wrote poetry, short fiction, essays, translations from French, and seven novels, including Tlooth, Cigarettes, and My Life in CIA.

The Solitary Twin

Fiction by Harry Mathews

With a contribution by John Ashbery

Harry Mathews’s brilliant final work, The Solitary Twin, is an engaging mystery that simultaneously considers the art of storytelling. When identical twins arrive at an unnamed fishing port, they become the focus of the residents’ attention and gossip. The stories they tell about the young men uncover a dizzying web of connections, revealing passion, sex, and murder. Fates are surprisingly intertwined, and the result is a moving, often hilarious, novel that questions our assumptions about life and literature.…
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Ellis Island

Literature by Georges Perec

Translated from the French by Harry Mathews

With a contribution by Mónica De La Torre

Georges Perec, employing prose meditations, lists, and inventories (of countries of origin, of what the immigrants carried), conjures up in Ellis Island the sixteen million people who, between 1890 and 1954, arrived as foreigners and stayed on to become Americans. Perec (who by the age of nine was an orphan: his father was killed by a German bullet; his mother perished in Auschwitz) is wide-awake to the elements of chance in immigration and survival: “To me Ellis Island is the ultimate place of exile.…
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Exercises in Style: 65th Anniversary Edition

On a crowded bus at midday, Raymond Queneau observes one man accusing another of jostling him deliberately. When a seat is vacated, the first man appropriates it. Later, in another part of town, Queneau sees the man being advised by a friend to sew a new button on his overcoat. Exercises in Style, Queneu’s experimental masterpiece and a hallmark book of the OULIPO literary group, retells this unexceptional tale in ninety-nine exceptional ways, employing writing styles such as the sonnet and the alexandrine, onomatopoeia and even Cockney.…
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Posthumous books almost always feel half-formed, coincidental, unpublished for a reason….The Solitary Twin, however, may well be the last great surprise Mathews pulled out of his deep bag of tricks. It is funny, perplexing, consistent and unusual, with all the characteristic Mathews obsessions. It may also be one of the best places to start enjoying his work.
The New York Times Book Review
It is hard to imagine the past half-century of pleasurable reading without the many strange books that clattered forth from Mathews’s linguistic contraptions….Despite the extreme formal variety of his books, several things unite them: They are funny, unpredictable, playful and absorbed by issues of love, death, fraud and art.
The New York Times Book Review
An imagination and an ingenuity that are often just astonishing.
Comic extravaganza that plays mockingly with every device of fiction.
Washington Post Book World
One of the most remarkable prose stylists presently writing in English.
San Francisco Chronicle
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