When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris -- but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde. Even so, most people today tend to think of Alfred Jarry only as the author of the play Ubu Roi, and of his life as a string of outlandish ubuesque anecdotes, often recounted with wild inaccuracy. In this first full-length critical biography of Jarry in English, Alastair Brotchie reconstructs the life of a man intent on inventing (and destroying) himself, t to mention his world, and the philosophy that defined their relation. Brotchie alternates chapters of biographical narrative with chapters that connect themes, obsessions, and undercurrents that relate to the life. The anecdotes remain, and are even augmented: Jarry's assumption of the ubuesque, his inversions of everyday behavior (such as eating backward, from cheese to soup), his exploits with gun and bicycle, and his herculean feats of drinking. But Brotchie distinguishes between Jarry's purposely playing the fool and deeper nconformities that appear essential to his writing and his thought, both of which remain a vital subterranean influence to this day.
Alastair Brotchie is a founder of the London publishing house Atlas Press, a Regent of the College de 'Pataphysique in Paris, and the editor of books and anthologies on Surrealism, Dada, and the Oulipo.