Pierre Klossowski

1905 (Paris) – 2001 (Paris)

Balthus was Klossowski’s brother. Both Rilke (his mother’s lover) and Gide were mentors during his youth; he supplied Gide with erotic stories and became his amanuensis. Bataille, met in 1935, was a close friend and lifetime colleague; Klossowski became a member of his secret society, Acéphale, and of his Collège de Sociologie (along with Caillois and Leiris). Masson and Breton (whose anti-fascist group Contre-Attaque Klossowski joined) were also met through Bataille. Klossowski wrote a study of the nude and eroticism with Blanchot, and translated his friend Benjamin’s most influential essay into French.

Norbert Guterman

1900 (Warsaw) – 1984 (Cuernavaca, Mexico)

Guterman was Lefebvre’s longtime friend and collaborator, despite Guterman’s exile (as a European Jew) in New York for the last 40 years of his life, Lefebvre writing to Guterman from Algeria, Greece, Brazil, Spain, Italy, as well as his native France. Breton also corresponded with him. Nizan was a friend and colleague in the ‘Philosophie’ group of marxist intellectuals founded by Lefebvre.

Noah Webster

1758 (Hartford, Conn.) – 1843 (New Haven, Conn.)

Webster was a neighbour of the Morse family in the Boston region: Morse painted the lexicographer’s portrait (did they also discuss ways words might be transcribed?). Franklin and Webster had a lengthy correspondence about rationalised spelling, a subject close to each man’s heart. The poet Trumbull feared Webster would “dine upon dissertations, and go to bed supperless.”

Natalia Ginzburg

1916 (Palermo, Sicily) – 1991 (Rome)

Ginzburg’s friendships with the writers Calvino, Pavese, Soldati and Levi all originated from their connections with the publisher Einaudi, in the years following WWII: Pavese had helped found the firm, and with Ginzburg turned down Levi’s first book (later republished by them). Levi nonetheless became a long-term friend.

Mary Wollstonecraft

1759 (London) – 1797 (London)

Wollstonecraft, Godwin, Blake, Fuseli, and Price were among the dissenter group centred around the publisher Johnson, who commissioned translations from her. Blake illustrated a children’s book she wrote. Fuseli and Wollstonecraft planned a trip together to Paris to observe the French Revolution, until Fuseli’s wife put an end to the idea. Wollstonecraft and her husband Godwin were distinctly unimpressed with each other when they met at a supper Johnson held for Paine; she died ten days after their daughter Mary (later Shelley) was born. Godwin later published her posthumous works.

Jorge Luis Borges

J. L. Borges

1899 (Buenos Aires) – 1986 (Geneva)

Cansinos-Assens was an early mentor to Borges in Madrid. Fernandez was both friend and mentor back in Buenos Aires. Ocampo published his early work, and through her he met Reyes and Bioy Casares, who became a literary collaborator and lifelong friend. Neruda was another good friend, despite differences of opinion, while his relationship with Lorca (who did not like his poetry) was somewhat prickly. He may have met Calvino only once, near the end of their lives. Burgess joked to Borges that their names were the same; they spoke Anglo-Saxon with one another.

Jorge Luis Borges knew…

John Ashbery

1927 (Rochester, N.Y.) – 2017 (Hudson, N.Y.)

Ashbery met Mathews in 1956, a friend and correspondent from then on. Schuyler co-authored a novel with him. Koch, Mathews and Schuyler were his co-founders and fellow-editors of Locus Solus. Auden, whom he knew slightly, saved his first collection from rejection. He socialised with Perec while the French writer was working on ‘La Vie Mode d’Emploi’, and Perec considered translating Ashbery’s work, though this never happened. He met Saint Phalle through her then-husband Mathews. Tranter published his work, as well as two long interviews, in his online magazine ‘Jacket’. Cage told him Beethoven was wrong.

Jacques Roubaud

1932 (Caluire-et-Cuire, France) –

Queneau, Le Lionnais, Bénabou and Perec were all friends and colleagues in the experimental writing group Oulipo. Paz, Sanguinetti and Roubaud collaborated (with an English poet) on a four-handed quadrilingual poem.

Edwin Morgan

1920 (Glasgow) – 2010 (Glasgow)

Morgan was one of the most significant (and best-loved) Scottish poets of the later 20th century. He taught Trocchi in Glasgow in the late 1940’s, knew him later in Paris, and described him as magnetic and erratic. Trocchi continued to send Morgan everything he published. Finlay was a friend as well as a colleague in the world of concrete poetry. Heaney visited the 85-year-old Morgan to pay homage to him.

Charles Baudelaire

1821 (Paris) – 1867 (Paris)

He belonged with Gautier, Nerval, Balzac and Delacroix to the Club des Hachichins, while staying more of an outsider. Manet (a close friend), Courbet and Nadar portrayed him. He wrote critical studies of his friends Hugo, Balzac, Nerval and Gautier. Delacroix inspired (and with Manet was subject of) his art criticism. He befriended and wrote about Jongkind, was on good terms with Liszt, wrote to Wagner (whom he admired), but never met Poe (whom he had translated and popularised). Banville and he quarreled over an actress, and in his last year Manet’s paintings surrounded him while friends played Wagner’s music.