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Not many writers write from both the right and left brains, but Jacques Roubaud bridges that chasm much like an expert martial artist—in a way that makes it seem simple. Or not. Roubaud is an encompassing author. He writes through a full spectrum of the “simple” (i.e. his poetry for children) to mind-bogglingly dense pieces underpinned by mathematical concepts incomprehensible to many left-brained creative folks. After all, the title for his first book was a mathematical symbol—graphic and discrete, yet to explain what it means would take more words than I have been allotted.

Then there’s his life. Child of French Resistance parents. Member of Oulipo, short for the Ouvroir de Litterature Poténtialle, commonly translated as “Workshop for Potential Literature.” Inventor of the “clandestine hunger strike” during his tour of duty in Algiers and translator of Lewis Carroll. University professor of mathematics, but not “a very important one,” as he says, “I didn’t want power!” Survivor of tragedy—World War II, the early death of his wife. Writer through prodigious memory, therefore inevitably grappling with Proust, with whom one senses Roubaud has a wary relationship. But Roubaud himself is now a revered figure in French literature—a postwar writer who, thanks to the ongoing invention of “constraints” demanded by Oulipo, always seems cutting edge...

Jacques Roubaud interview at Bomb Magazine (via Sponge!)

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