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Alfred Jarry

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Biography

Alfred Jarry (8 September 1873 – 1 November 1907) was a French writer born in Laval, Mayenne, France.
His father, Anselme, represented a wool factory as a traveling salesman, and his mother (nee Caroline Quernest) was the daughter of a judge. As a youth, Jarry won scholastic prizes in foreign languages and science. But the rebellious spirit and biting wit that marked his adult life were already making themselves known. With his school friends, Jarry mounted productions that made fun of his physics teacher, Felix Herbert. These parodies of Herbert were rewritten as Ubu Roi (1896; translated as King Turd in 1953)

The Ubu saga continued with Ubu enchaine (1900; translated as King Enslaved in 1953) and Ubu cocu (1944; translated as King Cuckolded). Jarry also wrote two novels. Le Surmale: Roman moderne (1902; translated as The Supermale: A Modern Novel [1968]) tells the story of a man who has a love-making contest with a machine. The other novel, Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien (1911; translated as The Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician [1965]) defined ‘‘pataphysics’’ as the science of imaginary solutions.

In his later years, Jarry demonstrated outrageous behavior; he mimicked the monotonous speech and the jerky walk of Pere Ubu; his abuse of ether and alcohol distorted his ability to distinguish himself from the characters he had created. Jarry died in a charity hospital in Paris on November 1, 1907. He was just thirty-four years of age.

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