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Alfred Jarry
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Playwright
    (September 8, 1873-November 1, 1907)
    Born in Laval, France
    Best known for the play 'Ubu Roi' (1896)
    Also wrote the play 'Cesar Antichrist' (1895), the novel 'The Supermale' (1902) and the short story 'The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race' (1903)
    Founded the 'science' of 'pataphysics ('the science of imaginary solutions')
    At its premier performance, 'Pere Ubu' triggered a riot from its first word ('Merdre').
    Andre Gide wrote, 'Everything in Jarry, that strange humbug, smelled of affectation – his face whited with flour, his mechanical speech without intonation, the syllables evenly spaced, and the words made up or distorted.'
    He referred to himself with the royal we.
    He expressed himself in a roundabout way, such a referring to the wind as 'that which blows' and his bicycle as 'that which rolls.'
    He painted his face green and rode that which rolls through town to promote absinthe (and probably under its influence as well).
    He never finished paying for his bicycle and, to add insult to injury, mocked the man who sold it to him in one of his novels.
    He rode a cyclist's outfit everywhere, including funerals.
    He considered himself a nihilist and declared, 'We won't have destroyed anything unless we destroy the ruins too.'
    He was an enthusiastic cyclist who often covered 40 miles to Paris (and another 40 back) in a single day and who occasionally raced against trains.
    He was an influence on surrealism, dadaism and the Theater of the Absurd.
    His literary admirers included Bertolt Brecht, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Jean Baudrillard, Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino.
    His influence pops up in unexpected places, such as the Beatles song 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' ('Joan was quizzical/Studied pataphysical science in the home') or the 'Sit Ubu, sit' closing tag to Family Ties.

Credit: C. Fishel


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