Compulsive writer and exquisite dandy Raymond Roussel was one of the most extraordinary literary figures of all time. He was born in 1877 and died in mysterious circumstances in 1933; his life was as strange as his work. His bizarre poetry, novels and plays - all disastrous commercial flops - have had a monumental influence on many of the century's best-known writers and artists. Jean Cocteau declared him 'genius in its pure state,' while Salvador Dali died with one of his books on his bedside table. Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Michel Foucault, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Harry Mathews have all testified to the haunting power of Roussel's imagination.
The poet Mark Ford traces the evolution of Roussel's eccentric compositional methods, and describes the idiosyncrasies of a life that was at once enchanting, heart-breaking and scarcely credible.