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New Impressions of Africa

Raymond Roussel

Atlas Anti-Classics 13

Translated and Introduced by Ian Monk.
ISBN 1-900565-09-9
256pp 19 x 17cm
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Last few copies
A bilingual edition with complete verse translation by Ian Monk, illustrations by H.-A. Zo printed within uncut pages as in the original edition. Limited to 1000 slipcased copies.

Raymond Roussel: poet, novelist, neurasthenic, dandy, drug addict, probable suicide, above all an eccentric whose immense riches allowed him to indulge his most outrageous whims, but who spent most of his life secreted in his darkened study producing works whose strangeness remains unsurpassed.

And: “New Impressions of Africa is probably this strange writer’s strangest work” according to the translator of this first English edition of Roussel’s final creative work. It’s a poem, but a poem unlike any published before or since. Its structure resembles hypertext, endless successions of afterthoughts separated by ever growing clumps of brackets which plunge the reader into a labyrinth at once banal and vertiginous. It took him 12 years to compose, or as he himself calculated, approximately 19,110 hours. The book was illustrated by an artist Roussel commissioned through a private-detective agency so as not to have to show him the text he was illustrating. The pictures are trapped inside uncut pages, and one of them depicts a man peering into the uncut pages of a book.

This is Roussel’s masterpiece. It prompted Raymond Queneau to declare that Roussel “combined a poet’s logic with the mathematician’s delirium”. Marcel Duchamp called him “a great poet” and freely acknowledged his influence, Salvador Dali loved the pictures!

A beautiful edition that reproduces the format of the original with its special uncut pages, it includes the French text opposite the English, and Roussel’s instructions to the despondent Zo. The translation is by Ian Monk with the assistance of Harry Mathews, both members of the Oulipo, a (mainly French) group of writers and mathematicians.

Ian Monk won the 2003 Scott-Moncrieff Prize for literary translation from French.


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