Thursday, November 17

Alfred Jarry

He was stubborn, shy, arrogant, incredibly proud, a rebel who liked to show off but was fundamentally mild and good-tempered. He loved the country, exercising, bicycling, fishing, and had a reputation for being able to catch fish where there were none...

He lived in a picturesquely filthy room on a floor called the second-and-a-half; the ceiling had been lowered and the room was a sort of cupboard between the second and third floors. He lived with two owls, (originally alive, later stuffed), a guitar, stinking flowers, masses of dirty papers, a stone phallus. Jarry's personal décor sounds familiar. He was certainly different from the bourgeois, but perhaps not so different from those who differ from the bourgeois. But his brilliance and wit were uncommon. Giving a lecture on art and artists he spoke of everything from Turkestan to Bergson, from Fragonard to angling. Afterwards one of his friends told him that he had found it very interesting but hadn't understood a word of it. Jarry answered: 'That's exactly what I wanted. Talking about things that are understandable only weighs down the mind and falsifies the memory, but the absurd exercises the mind and makes the memory work.'

-- Barbara Wright, in the preface to her translation of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry