Harry Mathews

Biography of Harry Mathews

Harry Mathews (born February 14, 1930) is an American author of various novels, volumes of poetry and short fiction, and essays.

Born in New York City to an upper-class family, Mathews was educated at private schools there and at the Groton School in Massachusetts before enrolling at Princeton University in 1947. He left Princeton in his sophomore year for a tour in the United States Navy, during the course of which (in 1949) he eloped with the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, a childhood friend. His military service completed, Mathews transferred to Harvard University in 1950; the couple's first child, a daughter, was born the following year. After Mathews graduated in 1952 with a B.A. in music, the family moved to Europe; a second child, a son, was born in 1955. Mathews and de Saint Phalle separated in 1960.

Together with John Ashbery, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch, Mathews founded and edited the short-lived but influential literary journal Locus Solus (named after a novel by Raymond Roussel, one of Mathews's chief early influences) from 1961 to 1962.

Harry Mathews was the first American chosen for membership in the French literary society known as the Oulipo, which is dedicated to exploring new possibilities in literature, in particular through the use of various constraints and algorithms. The late French writer Georges Perec, likewise a member, was a good friend, and the two translated some of each other's writings. Mathews considers many of his works to be Oulipian in nature, but even before he encountered the society he was working in a parallel direction.

Mathews is currently married to the writer Marie Chaix and divides his time between Paris, Key West, and New York.

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