In a startling riff on the theme of self-portraiture, legendary expatriate writer Harry Mathews—reputed to be a CIA agent due to a series of improbable coincidences in the early 1970s—decided to act the part. In his latest novel, My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973, Mathews documents the year as seen through his would-be agent’s eyes, using his inimitable experimental style to make the journey both fascinating and fun.
Mathews is the only living American member of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), France’s famed Workshop for Potential Literature. This group of writers and mathematicians, which included Marcel Duchamp, Georges Perec, and Italo Calvino, uses compositional techniques based on mathematical methods. Mathews is the author of numerous works of prose and poetry, including the acclaimed novels Cigarettes and The Journalist, and the constricted journal 20 Lines a Day.