Friday, July 1, 2011

Oh, but it’s like this, look you, what on earth is that? - Ubu ended

Well, Anything Ubu has been a fine bloggish experiential endeavor.  I have learned plenty from other people and have, I suppose, done my best.   In my defense, I do not understand a word Jarry wrote.

For example, let’s end with an ending, the grand finale of Ubu Cuckolded.   Pa Ubu has just retrieved his Conscience from the toilet, where he had stuffed it, and he is joined by Achras who is a mathematician, and a breeder of polyhedra.  Why not.

With a noise like an engine-whistle THE CROCODILE crosses the stage.



ACHRAS. Oh, but it’s like this, look you, what on earth is that?

PA UBU. It’s a boidie.

CONSCIENCE. It’s a most characteristic reptile and moreover (touching it) its hands possess all the properties of a snake’s.

PA UBU. Then it must be a whale, for the whale is the most inflated boidie in existence and this animal seems thoroughly distended.

CONSCIENCE. I tell you it’s a snake.

PA UBU. That should prove to Mister Conscience his stupidity and absurdity.  We had come to the same conclusion long before he said so: in fact it is a snake!  A rattler into the bargain.

ACHRAS (smelling it). Ouf!  One thing’s quite certain, look you, it ain’t no polyhedron.

And curtain, or houselights on, or turn the hose on the audience, or whatever your theater does when the play ends.  Curtain calls, everybody!  Stamp your feet and clap your hands for the puppeteer!

I see the form of actual play writing here.  Characterization, for example, like Pa Ubu’s utter ignorance and endless confidence in his immediate declaration that a crocodile is a bird, or the pedantic empiricist Conscience identifying a crocodile as a snake through examination of its hands, just the thing a snake does not have, although neither does a crocodile, come to think of it.  The last line of Achras links back to the first line of the play (”I’ve no grounds to be dissatisfied with my polyhedra”), but in a meaningless manner.

Jarry is parodying good practice.  That crocodile appears nowhere else in the play, but is dragged on stage for the play’s last two minutes.  It does relate to some earlier Egyptian nonsense, and may well be stolen from someone else’s play.  I fear the entire ending is a parody of a play that does not actually exist.  Efficient, I must admit.

Thanks to all of the Ubu readalongists.  To anyone who read a line of Ubu, or an entire play, and decided against writing about it: I do not blame you.   Boy, I do not.

So next week, after the July 4 holiday, I leap ahead, past the signed toilets and twelve-tone music and anti-novels and anarchic cartoon rabbits and onstage rhinoceri to an actual contemporary novel or three, the first volume of Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marías, a spy novel, or so it pretends.  Actually, it is itself a kind of anti-novel.   And then I beat my retreat to the gentle comforts of Victorian literature, to The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the younger by Anthony Trollope, although anyone who finds this novel too comforting is not reading it well.


  1. No! Not Trollope!

    I myself will retreat to my Scott and be grateful for the Scottish Enlightenment.

  2. A week of crazy nits Ubu is OK, but Trollope is forbidden?

  3. Have to admit, so much of this is beyond my understanding. I tried to follow your posts, really I did, but I don't think I'm quite as erudite as you and several of your fellow readers. Oh well, the exposure to new work has been nice...

  4. A parody of a non-existent play ...

    I must say that's an original formulation of originality. Ubuesque, as the whole thing is.

    Thanks for Anything Ubu. It was anything but.

  5. I'm sorry to have missed Ubu week except as a spectator, Amateur Reader. However, I will fulfill my commitment to you and Nicole fashionably late in July. Have enjoyed the posts although I will be back to revisit them after I get past Act I of Ubu Roi (June was an, ahem, difficult month for me it would seem).

  6. Bellezza, I can think of at least one other party to blame. In my defense, Ubu Roi marks as clear a beginning of the 20th century avant garde as I know. So I try a little of this, a little of that. Maybe it doesn't all make sense.

    Rise - oh yes, a pleasure. I might have made Jarry a bit too Borgesian or Bolañesque with that line you note.

    Richard - late July, sounds good.

  7. Well there, in the end I did cook an Ubu omelet and even though I burned it a little, it came out all right. Thanks for sending Pa Ubu lurching into my life. I won't soon forget him. Or the crocodile. Or the Conscience in the toilet. Or any of it.

  8. In all seriousness, to echo tuulenhaiven - anyone interested in the 20th century avant garde, which is not so different than saying anyone truly interested in 20th century art, do not miss Jarry. Read Ubu.

  9. Ubu ubu? Ubuubu, ibu ubu, ibi bibi, bubu ubi. buub. Uubuub? Ubu.