In France, Valery Larbaud occupies an important position in 20th century literature. Born in Vichy in 1881, he taught himself six languages at an early age and set out to bring world literature into French. He was the first to translate Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Butler, Walt Whitman, and James Joyce (supervising the French translation of Ulysses), among many others. A writer of poetry as well as innovative prose, Larbaud had his career unfortunately cut short by a stroke, and he spent his last 20 years confined to his home. He died in 1957.