The last word on Ubu

On Wednesday, I let Ubu speak for himself a bit, through his almanacs. Today, to finish off Ubu week, I’ll let Jarry speak for him a bit à son tour. Les Paralipomènes d’Ubu (The Omissions of Ubu) was published in La Revue Blanche at the end of 1896.

Jarry begins by describing Ubu, whom he believes will be misunderstood:

Ce n’est pas exactement Monsieur Thiers, ni le bourgeois, ni le mufle: ce serait plutôt l’anarchiste parfait, avec ceci qui empêche que nous devenions jamais l’anarchiste parfait, que c’est un homme, d’oú couardise, saleté, laideur, etc.

He’s not exactly Mr. Thiers [former French prime minister and queller of the 1871 Paris Commune], nor a bourgeois, nor a boor: he’s more like the perfect anarchist, with that which prevents us from ever becoming the perfect anarchist, a man full of cowardice, filth, ugliness, etc.

I think this goes right to the heart of what Amateur Reader calls “something more horrifying, more empty” than a simple “lust for money and power.” The real, true, 100% anarchist—if we want to believe Jarry at least—is just too hardcore. He is not only lawless but completely unbound by social or even physical norms, and unpredictable.

Jarry also describes Ubu physically:

S’il ressemble à un animal, il a surtout la face porcine, le nez semblable à la mâchoire supérieure du crocodile, et l’ensemble de son caparaçonnage de carton le fait en tout le frère de la bête marine la plus esthétiquement horrible, la limule.

If he resembles an animal, it’s above all in his piggish face, his nose like the upper jaw of a crocodile, and his cardboard tack makes him look like the brother of the most aesthetically horrible marine animal, the horseshoe crab.

I must say, I thought the most aesthetically horrible marine animal would be the walrus—especially considering what Ubu looks like—but I suppose in context the choice makes sense. They are grotesque. Once, years ago, I came upon a great number of them mating, and I would have to say the sight was ubuesquely awful.

Once again, translations from yours truly, and original text collected in the wonderful Tout Ubu, edited by Maurice Saillet. Any Francophone ubuphile should have this book; I was skeptical at first but it’s really worth it (not that it’s at all expensive, just not readily available in US stores of course). Ubu Week is just about over, so thanks to Amateur Reader, Rise, and any other Ubu readalongers. May your gidouilles always be full!

Not only was this a readalong opportunity for everyone, it also represented Amateur Reader’s bibliographing reading challenge. So double thank you for that—wonderful challenge!

5 comments to The last word on Ubu

  • My pleasure, more or less!

  • Hi-

    I am a bit late posting on Ubo Roi-which I adored once I got into it-thank your and Amateur Reader for offering us this event

    My post on Ubo Roi

  • Thanks for the commentaries and the translations. Really for the opportunity. From word one (Ha, I found an M-shirt), it’s been wretched fun.

    Now to check out Mel’s post …

  • Dwelling on Ubu leads to rather spooky places once you get through laughing. Phew. Glad you and Amateur Reader came up with this – I will grudging admit that it was time well spent. What will the next insane reading challenge be, please?

  • Haha, have we not done enough insane reading challenges? Well, all our challenges are a bit insane, and I’m sure another one will be coming up sooner or later. That Josipovici idea AR mentioned on your blog sounds particularly nutty. Not sure even I am ready for that one!