Thursday, September 08, 2011


Alfred Jarry
Alfred Jarry was a French writer who was born on September 8, 1873 and lived until November 1. 1907. In that short period, he managed to somehow invent surrealist, absurd theater and create a body of work of mindlessly brilliant anarchistic idiocy that manages to confound and influence western art over a century later. Among other things, he developed a body of work which became the inspiration of much early dada and surreal writing. He invented a nonsense, alternate pseudo science which he called Pataphysics
As a schoolboy, Jarry was a precocious, but deliquent trouble maker who ridiculed his superiors and began to write and perform plays that evolved into a body of work called The Ubu Plays. The character based on his obese physics teacher, an unfortunate Monsieur Hebert evolved into Pere Ubu, one of the most monstrous and astonishing characters in French literature.
an original woodcut of Pere Ubu by Jarry

In 1893, the 23 year old Jarry, who had managed in a short time to drink his way through his inheritance, premiered the first play, Ubu Roi. It would be impossible to really explain the play here, somehow he massacres the Macbeth storyline, but of course, Ubu would become the king of Poland, spurred on by his disgusting, nasty trollope of a wife. He punctures social, political and psychological reality and creates a stupid hilariously surreal absurd world ruled by the obese and obnoxious Ubu. The first line of the play is Ubus thunderous epithet, Merdre! Which is a more emphatic version of the word Merde, which means Shit....
In some of the later plays, Ubu's wife cuckolds him by having an affair with a geometry professor who has trained performing polyhedra. 

Jarry died in 1907 from his undeniable drug and absinthe addiction, but left a trail of brilliant incoherence in his path that somehow rudely set the curtains of classical art on fire and gave birth to the modern world in it's crudely absurdist glare. He left legends of bizarre behaviour in his wake; careening drunkenly around Paris on his bike with his face painted green with a loaded in an impossible apartment with such a low ceiling that no one could stand up in, but him as he was very short man.
a version of ubu from a recent
swedish production
I posted a piece of music by the brilliant Cleveland, Ohio group which took the name of Jarry's character, Pere Ubu. In 2010, the band released a collaborative work based on the Ubu Plays with the experimental British Filmakers, The Brothers Quay. The video above is an excerpt from the cycle. The Ubu Plays remain a source of inspiration today. The work of the Residents, much of the absurdist theater of today would not exist if Jarry hadn't created his absurd nihilistic idiocy in the late 19th century. I became obsessed with the work when I was a teen ager. I still am.


Anonymous said...

Damn Microdot,

Thank you for posting that.

The video was something that resembles some weird-assed dream where you awake and try your best to immediately get back to sleep to continue the order and the disarray.


microdot said...

Mr. Politeness, I started to write this last week...then I ran into some new stuff by the band Pere Ubu...which sidetracked me...then last night as the clock was ticking...I am going back to Vieux Chevrol for 2 weeks tomorrow evening, I decided to finish the piece...then I realized that it actually was Jarrys birthdate!
Finally sent your package...I will write more when I get back....

Anonymous said...

Hi Microdot.

Thank you and have a safe trip. I always look forward to your tales after these trips. I'll invoke the Humpty Dumpty lawn ornament to ensure perfect weather.


Laci The Dog said...

Hasn't the republican party embraced pataphysics in recent years? especially Michelle Bachmann!