If you have not encountered the work of the recently departed Raymond Federman (1928-2009) through his countless novels, poems, short pieces, surfictions, critifictions, and literary provocations, you haven’t really read, or unread, as the case may be.
First step: find a copy of Double of Nothing: a real fictitious discourse (1971)—Federman’s debut. It’s a furious meta-fictional / typographical adventure. It’s cerebral, but with heart. Spend two minutes browsing through the text on Google books; the noodle novel will blow your mind.
From there, pick up any of Federman’s numerous texts, an entire corpus un/writing the autobiography of a well-known story: Federman, as a child, pushed into a closet by his mother as collaborationist French police take his parents and two sisters for eventual transport to Auschwitz. The young boy works in a southern French farm, in hiding, during the rest of the war and eventually makes his way to America, to the army, to a Ph.D, to a friendly relationship with his great mentor Samuel Beckett, and, over a series of books—never from a mainstream press—through the gulf of memory and un/telleable stories of loss and of laughter, always laughter.
The last decade has seen three great publishers publish Federman’s last works:
With Federman’s death from cancer in late 2009, this last novel—set for May 2010 release—promises to be his last new English work. The novel appeared as Chut in French (Leo Scheer, 2008), yet like Beckett, Federman always “transacted” rather than translated his novels into the other language.
I come into this story as a late-in-life friend of Federman, and as guest editor for Starcherone on the English SHHH. As such, I will write more about the editorial process and my own thoughts on this book and my friend—now changed tense—in the coming months.
For now, one anecdote—Federman told me over email—and others, of course, as he endless recycled everything–when he was in the midst of his cancer:
my charming lady heart doctor informed them that I am a very famous writer and that I must absolutely be saved so I can continue to be famous
you be amazed how these doctors looked me up on google
federman on google is impressive
in person he’s rather pale these days
Pick up SHHH, soon, and you’ll find, in contrast, a man whose work—full of the same laugh that motivates his comment above—remains anything but pale.