Collected French Translations: Prose

John Ashbery; Edited by Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An essential, vibrant collection of masterful translations by one of the finest poets at work today

Collected French Translations: Prose
, the second volume in a landmark two-volume selection of John Ashbery’s translations, focuses on prose writing. Ashbery’s own prose writings and engagement with prose writers—through translations, essays, and criticism—have had a profound impact on the cultural landscape of the past half century. This book presents his versions of, among others, the classic French fairy tale “The White Cat” by Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, as well as works by such innovative masters as Raymond Roussel and Giorgio de Chirico. Here are all of Roussel’s Documents to Serve as an Outline and extracts from his Impressions of Africa; selections from Georges Bataille’s darkly erotic first novella, L’abbé C; Antonin Artaud’s correspondence with the writer Jacques Rivière; Salvador Dalí on Willem de Kooning’s art; Jacques Dupin on Giacometti; and key theoretical and conceptual texts by Odilon Redon, Jean Hélion, Iannis Xenakis, and Marcelin Pleynet. Several of these twenty-nine prose pieces, by seventeen fiction writers, playwrights, artists, musicians, and critics, are previously unpublished or have been long unavailable. Many are modern classics, such as Pierre Reverdy’s Haunted House. This book provides fresh insight into the range of French cultural influence on Ashbery’s life and work in literature and the arts.


Read an Excerpt

There was once a king who had three sons, stout and courageous lads; he feared that the desire to reign might seize hold of them before his death; there were even rumors that they were seeking to acquire vassals, so as to deprive him of his kingdom. The king felt his age, yet he was still sound of mind and body, and by no means inclined to surrender a position he filled with much dignity; therefore he concluded that the best way to live in peace was to tease them with promises which he would always be able to avoid fulfilling.
He summoned them to his chamber, and after


Praise for Collected French Translations: Prose

Praise for John Ashbery’s translation of Illuminations

“Meticulously faithful yet nimbly inventive . . . We are fortunate that John Ashbery has . . . brought to it such care and imaginative resourcefulness.” —Lydia Davis, New York Times Book Review

In the Press

John Ashbery's Earliest Translations | Work in Progress
For most of his contemporaries, France was the place to go for culture, food, and education; for John Ashbery, the place, but especially its language, provided
- FSG's Work in Progress

Reviews from Goodreads



  • John Ashbery; Edited by Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie

  • John Ashbery’s latest book of poems is Quick Question. From 1960 to 1965, he was the International Herald Tribune art critic and ArtNews Paris correspondent. France has named him Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Officier of the Légion d’Honneur. He has received a National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and President Obama awarded him a National Humanities Medal. Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie’s latest poetry book is Psyche and Amor. They have edited Ashbery’s essays in Other Traditions and in Selected Prose, as well as his translations of Pierre Martory. She teaches at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy; he is the director of writing at Pace University.

  • John Ashbery Photograph by Walter Silver, Paris, 1959


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Collected French Translations: Prose

John Ashbery; Edited by Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie