The Science of Imaginary Solutions

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Les minutes de sable mémorial (Paris: Mercure de France, 1894). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197017.

It is disappointing that the New York Times has not yet published a review of the Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition and catalogue Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being, which opened two days ago during bibliography week. The first American museum exhibition devoted to the French writer and artist Jarry (1873-1907) was made possible thanks to the 2017 gift to the Morgan of the books and manuscripts from the Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman Pataphysics Collection.

Thomas Chimes (1921–2009), Alfred Jarry (Departure from the Present), 1973, oil on panel. The Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman Pataphysics Collection. Courtesy of Locks Gallery.

Jarry defined pataphysics as “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.” The exhibition catalogue by Sheelagh Bevan, now in the Graphic Arts Collection, helps to further illuminate Jarry’s complex philosophy and art. She situates his brief career between Arthur Rimbaud’s “Une saison en enfer” and Pablo Picasso’s “Les demoiselles d’Avignon,” with his first major book published at the age of 21. What had you accomplished by 21?

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), César-antechrist (Paris: Mercure de France, 1895).. Princeton University Library.

The small 1894 volume, Les minutes de sable, with exquisite woodcuts, is one of the most beautiful books ever published. Full stop. The Graphic Arts Collection copy is here: It was only topped by Jarry’s 1895 volume, Cesar antechrjst.

The Morgan has thoughtfully planned a full schedule of tours, performances, and a conference, all listed on the website:

If you can’t wait, see the 1965 performance of Jarry’s Ubu Roi on Ubuweb:
. Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), Ubu Roi (Dir. Jean-Christophe Averty, 1965).