Raymond Roussel

Raymond Roussel

Raymond Roussel was born into a wealthy Parisian family in 1877 and died in a hotel room in Palermo in 1933. His works have influenced such artists and writers as Marcel Duchamp (“Roussel showed me the way”), Alberto Giacometti, Kenneth Koch, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Leonardo Sciascia, Italo Calvino, Paul Auster, Georges Perec, and Jim Jarmusch.

Locus Solus

Fiction by Raymond Roussel

Translated from the French by Rupert Copeland Cunningham

The wealthy scientist Martial Canterel guides a group of visitors through his expansive estate, Locus Solus, where he displays his various deranged inventions: a machine propelled by the weather, which constructs a mosaic out of varying hues of human teeth; a hairless cat charged with a powerful electric battery; a bizarre theater in which corpses are reanimated with a special serum to enact the most important movements of their past lives.…
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[H]e was a seminal influence on surrealism, Dadaism, the nouveau roman, and the Oulipo….Roussel could have attempted to go the way of a popular writer like Rostand or of an avant-garde writer like Breton, but, both admirably and foolishly, he remained Roussel to the end.

—Ryan Ruby, Lapham’s Quarterly

Originally published in 1914, Roussel’s extraordinary novel still feels fresh more than a hundred years later… Both a guide to a deranged scientist’s estate and a prism for refracting Roussel’s diverse stories, this incredible novel is somehow both Gothic and modern at the same time.

—Seth Satterlee, Publishers Weekly

Raymond Roussel’s works immediately absorbed me: I was taken by the prose style even before learning what was behind it—the process, the machines, the mechanisms—and no doubt when I discovered his process and his techniques, the obsessional side of me was seduced a second time by the shock of learning the disparity between this methodically applied process, which was slightly naive, and the resulting intense poetry.

—Michel Foucault

Genius in its pure state. The Proust of dreams.

—Jean Cocteau

There is hidden in Roussel something so strong, so ominous, and so pregnant with the darkness of the ‘infinite spaces’ that frightened Pascal, that one feels the need for some sort of protective equipment when one reads him.

—John Ashbery
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