The Solitary Twin

Harry Mathews (Author)


John and Paul were also visitors to the town. They were twins, as identical as can be. They wore the same clothes, chino trousers and open-neck sweaters, in John's case adorned with a faded maroon neckerchief. Both were addicted to the shellfish harvested year-round from the rocks and sands of the coast: little clams, winkles, cockles, crabs, and above all sea urchins-their dessert, as both said. They drank only McEwan's India pale ale and smoked the same thin black Brazilian cigars ...

So begins the great writer Harry Mathews's final novel, The Solitary Twin, a rollicking yet incredibly moving story of two young men who come to a picturesque beach town. Seen prismatically through the viewpoints of the town's residents, they offer a variety of worldviews. Yet are they really twins or a single person?

Harry Mathews, the first American member of the French avant-garde literary society Oulipo, and long associated with the New York School of Poets, passed away this year, and The Solitary Twin is his last novel. "I believe this novel is his finest," his friend John Ashbery wrote.

Product Details

New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
March 27, 2018
5.1 X 0.4 X 7.8 inches | 0.3 pounds
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About the Author

Harry Mathews (1930-2017) was born in New York. A founding editor of the literary journal Locus Solus, he wrote novels, poetry, short fiction, essays, and translations from the French. His many books include Cigarettes (1987), The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (1999), and The Human Country (2002).


An imagination and an ingenuity that are often just astonishing.
Like Roubaud and Perec, Mathews engineers a funhouse labyrinth in which guise disfigures guise and the logic that reigns is that of representation.
Comic extravaganza that plays mockingly with every device of fiction.
As the novel circles closer to the grand reveal promised by its title, Mathews toys with the reader's 'desire to resolve the irresolute, to conclude the incomplete, to have the crooked made straight.' The result is an undeniably clever parting shot from one of contemporary literature's most playfully challenging writers.
One of the most remarkable prose stylists presently writing in English.
A fascinating, discursive swan song that celebrates the power of stories.--Tyler Malone (03/23/2018)
The Solitary Twin is the perfect endnote for Harry Mathews and a superb point of entry for new readers, encapsulating his lifelong commitment to formal invention while simply being an excellent novel in its own right.--J.W. McCormack