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Jacques Roubaud

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Roubaud speaking at the Salon du Livre de Paris in 2008

Jacques Roubaud (French: [ʁubo]; born 5 December 1932 in Caluire-et-Cuire, Rhône) is a French poet, writer and mathematician.

Life and career


Jacques Roubaud taught mathematics at University of Paris X Nanterre and poetry at EHESS. A member of the Oulipo group, he has published poetry, plays, novels, and translated English poetry and books into French, such as Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. French poet and novelist Raymond Queneau had Roubaud's first book, a collection of mathematically structured sonnets, published by Éditions Gallimard, and then invited Roubaud to join the Oulipo as the organization's first new member outside the founders.[1]

Roubaud's fiction often suppresses[clarification needed] the rigorous constraints of the Oulipo (while mentioning their suppression, thereby indicating that such constraints are indeed present), yet takes the Oulipian self-consciousness of the writing act to an extreme. This simultaneity both appears playfully, in his Hortense novels (Our Beautiful Heroine, Hortense Is Abducted and Hortense in Exile), and with gravity and reflection in The Great Fire of London, considered the pinnacle of his prose. The Great Fire of London (1989), The Loop (1993), and Mathematics (2012) are the first three volumes of a long, experimental, autobiographical work known as "the project" (or "the minimal project"), and the only volumes of "the project", at present, to have been translated into English. Seven volumes of "the project" have been completed and published in French. To compose The Loop, Roubaud began with a childhood memory of a snowy night in Carcassonne and then wrote nightly, without returning to correct his writing from previous nights. Roubaud's goals in writing The Loop were to discover "My own memory, how does it work?" and to "destroy" his memories through writing them down.[1]

Roubaud has participated in readings and lectures at the European Graduate School (2007), the Salon du Livre de Paris (2008), and the "Dire Poesia" series at Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Venice (2011).[2][3]

He married Alix Cléo Roubaud in 1980; she died three years later.[4]

Selected bibliography

  • La Belle Hortense (1985). Our Beautiful Heroine, trans. David Kornacker (Overlook Press, 1987).
  • Quelque chose noir (1986). Some Thing Black, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop. Photographs by Alix Cléo Roubaud (Dalkey Archive Press, 1990).
  • L'Enlèvement d'Hortense (1987). Hortense Is Abducted, trans. Dominic Di Bernardi (Dalkey Archive Press, 1989).
  • Échanges de la lumière (1990). Exchanges on Light, trans. Eleni Sikélianòs (La Presse, 2009).
  • Le Grand Incendie de Londres (Branch 1 of the Project) (1989). The Great Fire of London, trans. Dominic Di Bernardi (Dalkey Archive Press, 1991).
  • La Princesse Hoppy ou Le Conte du Labrador (1990). The Princess Hoppy, or The Tale of Labrador, trans. Bernard Hœpffner (Dalkey Archive Press, 1993).
  • L'Exil d'Hortense (1990). Hortense in Exile, trans. Dominic Di Bernardi (Dalkey Archive Press, 1992).
  • La Pluralité des mondes de Lewis (1991). The Plurality of Worlds of Lewis, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop (Dalkey Archive Press, 1995).
  • La Boucle (Branch 2 of the Project) (1993). The Loop, trans. Jeff Fort (Dalkey Archive Press, 2009).
  • Poésie, etcetera : ménage (1995). Poetry, etcetera: Cleaning House, trans. Guy Bennett (Green Integer, 2006).
  • Mathématique (Branch 3, Part 1, of the Project) (1997). Mathematics, trans. Ian Monk (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012).
  • La forme d'une ville change plus vite, hélas, que le cœur des humains (1999). The Form of a City Changes Faster, Alas, than the Human Heart: 150 Poems, 1991–1998, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop and Keith Waldrop (Dalkey Archive Press, 2006).
  • Poésie (Branch 4 of the Project) (2000).
  • La Bibliothèque de Warburg (Branch 5 of the Project) (2002)
  • Impératif catégorique (Branch 3, Part 2, of the Project) (2008)
  • La Dissolution (Branch 6 (Final) of the Project) (2008)

Awards and honors

  • 1986: Prix France Culture, for Quelque chose noir
  • 1990: Grand prix national de la poésie du ministère de la Culture, for his body of work
  • 2008: Grand prix de littérature Paul-Morand, for his body of work


  1. ^ a b Durand, Marcella. "Jacques Roubaud". BOMB Magazine. Summer 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Poesia e matematica, "parenti" strette". Il Giornale di Vicenza. 6 April 2011. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  3. ^ "A Dire Poesia Jacques Roubaud e Piergiorgio Odifreddi: magico connubio tra matematica e poesia". Comune di Vicenza. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Quinze minutes la nuit au rythme de la respiration" (PDF) (in French). Bibliothèque nationale de France. 4 April 2023.

Further reading

  • Poucel, Jean-Jacques. Jacques Roubaud and the Invention of Memory. North Carolina Studies in Romance Languages and Literatures. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Puff, Jean-François. "Mémoire de la mémoire. Jacques Roubaud et la lyrique médiévale". Paris : Editions Classiques Garnier, coll. "Etudes de littérature des XXe et XXIe siècles", 2009.
  • Reig, Christophe. Mimer, Miner, Rimer : le cycle romanesque de Jacques Roubaud (La Belle Hortense, L'Enlèvement d'Hortense, L'Exil d'Hortense) – préface de Bernard Magné, New-York/Amsterdam, Rodopi, coll. " Faux-Titre" n°275, 2006. (ISBN 90-420-1978-6)