Born in New York City in 1930, Harry Mathews has
spent much of his adult life in Europe, chiefly in France. He now
divides his time between France and Key West, Florida.
Mathews began publishing his poetry in 1956. He soon afterwards became associated with the so-called New York School of poets, and particularly with John Ashbery, with whom he has remained a close friend. In 1962 he published the first of five novels, The Conversions (the most recent, The Journalist, appeared in 1994; he is currently working on a new book tentatively entitled My Life in CIA). He has published several volumes of poems, translations, and criticism.
In 1970 Mathews met the French writer Georges Perec; there began a period of literary collaboration and friendship that only ended with the Frenchman’s death in 1982. Perec introduced Mathews to the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (the Oulipo), a group of mathematicians and writers devoted to the investigation of constrictive forms and procedures. (The Oulipo, co-founded by Raymond Queneau, has counted Marcel Duchamp, Italo Calvino, and Jacques Roubaud among its members.)
In 1978 Mathews began teaching in the United States. His subjects have included French literature, comparative literature, and writing.
From 1949 to 1961 Mathews was married to Niki de Saint Phalle, by whom he had two children. He is now married to the French novelist Marie Chaix.
German bio and bibliography | Poetry in German | Forum | Index
An interview with Harry Mathews by John Ashbery
An interview with Harry Mathews by Alexander Laurence
Harry Mathews: An exclusive evolutionary vortex of world excursions: the Chronogram for 1998