1. bibliographing nicole, host of last year’s historic, blog-shattering Clarel readalong has thrown down a metaphorical gauntlet, demanding a Challenge!
2. Roberto Bolaño obsessives have circulated lists of his favorite books, for example this list, where Bolaño expresses his affection for “Anything Ubu by Jarry,” which may well have been a translator’s misunderstanding. Bolaño might be referring to an actual book, Tout Ubu, a French omnibus of Ubu.
3. This step is extremely important, but I have forgotten what it is. I will consult my notes, which are unfortunately poorly organized, and insert the missing information later.
4. The result:
All are invited to consult their consciences and read Anything Ubu, or carried away by their newly awakened and insatiable appetite, Everything Ubu.
What is Ubu? The first great character of the 20th century. The destruction of literature. The beginning of Modernism. A travesty. A nightmare. A moderately amusing jape. Two authentic portraits of Papa Ubu have been ensconced at the head of Wuthering Expectations. A sample, Act 4, Scene 5 of Ubu Cocu, complete:
The same, MEMNON showing his head.
MEMNON’S HEAD: It’s not functioning at all, it’s broken down. What a dirty business, like your braining machine. I’m not afraid of that. It all proves my point – there’s nothing like a sewage barrel. In falling in and popping out again you’ve done more than half the work for me.
PA UBU: By my green candle, I’ll gouge your eyes out – barrel, pumpkin, refuse of humanity! (He shove him back, then shuts himself in the lavatory recess with The Palcontents.)
“It all proves my point” – that is my new motto. Expect me to deploy it in your comments soon. Cyril Connolly is the “translator” here. Many translations and adaptation of the Ubu plays exist. The plays are:
Ubu Roi, or King Ubu, or whatever you want to call it. Written and performed, actually performed in an actual Paris theater, by human actors, in 1896.
Ubu Cocu, or Ubu Cuckolded. Published in 1943. Jarry was long dead.
Ubu Enchaîné, or Ubu Enslaved, published in 1900, I think. Who cares.
In some sense, this is the proper order of the plays, and a proper reader would want to start with Ubu Roi. The proper reader would also end with Ubu Roi, probably before he gets to the bottom of the first page, and “sense” is really the wrong word to use in the context of Ubu, so forget all of that.
These three plays make up The Ubu Cycle but are not the end of Ubu. I have only alluded to the fact that these plays have an author, Alfred Jarry, who is visible, in Picasso’s portrait, peeping over the Challenged! button up above. Jarry’s writings outside of the plays are suffused with Ubu, soaked in Ubu, dripping with Ubu. Jarry, in what for the sake of argument I will call “real life,” actually became Ubu. For legal and ethical reasons, I urge participants in the Anything Ubu Readalong Opportunity not to actually become Ubu.
Nicole and I invite one and all to defile their blogs by sampling Anything Ubu. We think we will begin the disembraining (or, to use an antiquated technical term, “discussion”) in the last week of June. Bolañistos and Bolañistas are nuts not to join in. Other readers – see you in July! Or August – the Ubu stink may be gone by then.