We mourn the loss of Richard Stern, a lion of the literary world whose name was little known outside the den. He established himself as a nurturing teacher and a powerful force in literature at the University of Chicago, where, while writing, he taught English and creative writing from 1955 until his retirement in 2001. In Stern’s New York Times obituary, Philip Roth recalls meeting Saul Bellow, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Norman Mailer in Stern’s U of C classroom. During his tenure at the school, Stern was awarded the Medal of Merit for the Novel by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in 1986.
He published fiction, short stories, and essays prolifically, appearing in The Paris Review four times, across a span of almost thirty years. The second of these occurrences, from Issue 66 (Summer 1976), was the story “Aurelia Frequenzia Reveals the Heart and Mind of the Man of Destiny,” a brief and disorienting vignette about the interview of a mysterious Vietnamese ex-politician by a French journalist. Marked by a strong current of anxiety and paranoia, tension builds and builds until an abrupt and surprising resolution. It is representative of the work he shared with us.