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Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews is a novelist, poet, essayist, translator, and short-story writer. “He is one of American literature’s great idiosyncratic figures,” according to the Paris Review. “He rightfully belongs to the experimentalist tradition of Kafka, Beckett, and Joyce, even though his classical, witty style has won him comparisons to Nabokov, Jane Austen, and Evelyn Waugh.”

Many of Mathews’ works have been produced under formal or behavioral constraints, often reflecting the influence of the Oulipo, a Paris-based group of writers and mathematicians of which Mathews has been a member since 1973. Selected Declarations of Dependence is entirely derived from the syntax of forty-six familiar proverbs, while Twenty Lines a Day was the result of adhering to Stendhal’s dictum to write “twenty lines a day, genius or not.” Blake Butler of Vice has said “each of Mathews’ works are so distinct in approach that the reader is left constantly updating his expectations of what might appear, while at the same time finding in every book a syntax so assuredly composed in its own image that it couldn’t have been written by anyone else.”

Mathews’ six novels include The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium, Cigarettes, and, most recently, My Life in CIA. His collections of poetry include Trial Impressions, A Mid-Season Sky: Poems 1954-1991, and The New Tourism. His short stories have been collected in The Human Country, and his critical writings in The Case of the Persevering Maltese. Mathews has also published a number of translations from the French, notably Georges Bataille’s Blue of Noon, as well as work by Raymond Roussel and Georges Perec.

Matthews has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 2002 he was awarded France’s Order of Arts and Letters. He was the Paris editor of The Paris Review from 1989-2003. Today he is married to the writer Marie Chaix, with whom he lives in Paris, Lans-en-Vercors, and Key West.

Selected Bibliography:

The New Tourism (Sand Paper Press 2010)
My Life in CIA (2005)
The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays (2003)
The Human Country: New and Collected Stories (2002)
Singular Pleasures (1993)
20 Lines a Day (1988)
The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (1975)
Tlooth (1966)
The Conversions (1962)

Online Resources:

Harry Mathews interviewed in the Paris Review
Mathews bio from the Poetry Foundation
Mathews profiled in Vice