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Strange Flowers

So it’s been, what, like five whole days since our last suicidal poet? Sorry to leave you hanging like that. Here, not a moment too soon, is Raymond Roussel, who was born in Paris on this day in 1877.

Roussel’s poetry and novels, of which the most famous is Impressions d’Afrique, are works of incandescent originality which prompted Louis Aragon to name him “President of the Republic of Dreams”. The nuances of Roussel’s dazzling word play are notoriously resistant to translation and even in his native France he was largely ignored in his lifetime and he remains above all a writer’s writer, admired particularly by the Surrealists.

Roussel inherited a major fortune which, apart from leaving him free to write, encouraged the full flowering of his distinctly odd personality, as strange and marvellous as his work (though he was insistent that one did not influence the other). Whether…

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