August 24, 2008

Trevor Winkfield on Raymond Roussel

This post now resides on my other site 50 Watts:


  1. Nice, didn't know about Pageant - I should pick up a copy of that. Roussel-related trivia: right now MoMA's show on Dalí's film includes Impressions de la Haute Mongolie - Hommage à Raymond Roussel, which is also up at Ubu at (The print they have at MoMA looks almost as bad as the Ubu one does, though it does have funny English subtitles that scroll around.)

    Frustratingly, neither Ubu nor MoMA's walltext explain exactly what this film has to do with Roussel. It turns out to be his version of "La Vue", where an enormous poem is generated from the label on a bottle of water. Dalí informs the audience that he urinated on the copper ferrule of a ballpoint pen then filmed the corroded copper under a microscope, generating hallucinatory landscapes, which appear to have been touched up by him, though he swears this is not the case.

    Nobody, as far as I can tell, has done a full-length study on Roussel's importance to Duchamp, which is a shame; my impression is that most art historians simply haven't bothered to read Roussel.

    One nice little book you might know already: Jennifer Gough-Cooper & Jacques Caumont's La vie illustrée de Marcel Duchamp avec 12 dessins d'André Raffray, which the Centre Pompidou put out in 1977. It's a little children's book about Duchamp (it seems like it could be part of a strange series of lives of the saints) with illustrations, including one of Duchamp, Apollinaire, and Gabrielle & Francis Picabia going to see Impressions of Africa. A couple of scans here. I think Atlas put out an English translation, though I've never seen it . . .

    (Also maybe worth noting in passing that filmmaker Guy Maddin is supposed to be making a film with John Ashbery about Roussel. I buttonholed Maddin at a screening of his most recent film & asked him about this - he said he's still trying to find money for it, but he hoped that he could do it. Certainly I think this would be the greatest film ever made, though perhaps it is a film with a very small audience.)

  2. Dan, thanks for all this great information! I also hope Guy Maddin finds the money for that movie.

    I didn't realize the origin of Atlas's publication, Marcel Duchamp: A Life in Pictures, one of the few books I never picked up from them.

    Just emailed Trevor Winkfield to see if he wants to add anything to this post, so check back next week.

  3. Another amazing post, this time about my favorite author of them all! Strangely, I too am working on an film inspired by Roussel's writings (in my case, a cut-out collage animation film). I'm currently storyboarding it, so no estimate on how long it will actually take!