William Dean Howells

1837 (Martinsville, Ohio) – 1920 (New York)

Howells is better-known for his talent-spotting and nurturing of new writers than for his own under-appreciated work. His two most important literary relationships were with James and Twain: James (whom he encouraged) was close for over fifty years, and Twain (whom he was influential in getting accepted seriously) for forty, the friendship eventually derailed over their love and hate of tobacco. Holmes (who lived two doors away), Whitman, Thoreau, Hawthorne and Emerson were met when Howells moved as a young man to Boston. Wharton (who became a friend) and Crane were among the many writers he brought to notice.

William Dean Howells knew…

Philippe Sollers

1936 (Bordeaux) –

Aragon, Breton and Ponge encouraged him early in his career; later, he visited Ponge at least weekly. Lacan, Althusser and Barthes were all friends (he said Lacan’s seminars were the best theatre he ever saw). Barthes, Ponge, Derrida and Kristeva were among contributers to the influential radical literary journal ‘Tel Quel’ that he founded; Kristeva, fresh from Bulgaria, came to question him, and never left (they married). He said that Barthes almost died in his arms. Mauriac had been a mentor, and got him discharged from military service after he feigned schizophrenia, supporting as he did the war for Algerian independence.

Raymond Queneau

1903 (Le Havre, France) – 1976 (Paris)

Kojève taught Queneau, who published Kojève’s lectures on Hegel. Queneau visited Masson’s studio regularly, as well as the surrealist group at 54 rue du Château — Duhamel, Prévert, Tanguy, Péret, and often Breton. Bataille and Leiris were close friends; Queneau worked on Bataille’s ‘Documents’, and went to Spain with Leiris (they had to be repatriated). Limbour was a childhood friend, Vian a fellow-Pataphysician, and Miller and Hélion regular correspondents. Perec, Le Lionnais, Mathews, Arnaud, Bénabou and Calvino were all friends and colleagues in Oulipo. Paulhan (especially), Duhamel, Camus, Sartre and Malraux were among Queneau’s colleagues at Gallimard’s publishing house. Murdoch adored him.