Friday, May 27, 2011

The Anything Ubu Readalong Opportunity

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.


  1. Wee! Lovely buttoning you have done for us, thank you so much.

    Also, "palcontents" has been my favorite word now for about a month, just for the record.

  2. I was wondering what I'd read when I finished Mrs Dalloway. Now I know!

  3. .

    Ubu in Urdu
    hand stands
    eclectic Becket
    very very
    Waiting for Ubu
    shaman voodoo
    Jamaican Mon
    Ubu in Xanadu
    Sator Square
    Redux echo


  4. Off to an explosive start!

    Mrs. Dalloway, that's actually a good pairing. Modernism in rather different guises.

    If anyone wants to write up a post on Vince's poem, I think that counts as part of the Readalong opportunity. I quite like the concluding portmanteau.

  5. Well, if nothing else, the readalong prompted a night of playing music I listened to in college. The kids liked some of it, but I'm not sure they got into Pere Ubu, though.

    Given my schedule over the next couple of months I'm not sure I'll be able to join in but I look forward to Nicole's and your posts on the works.

  6. Dwight, a first listen is entirely insufficient. Pere Ubu demands immersion.

    If anyone wants to put up a series of posts on the literary merits of Datapanik in Year Zero or Dub Housing or what have you, I am ready for that. Do it, someone, do it!

    Note to uninitiated: Pere Ubu is a great and surprisingly long-lived Cleveland art-punk band.

  7. Count me in for some, although probably not tout, of Ubu, provided I can find an appropriate text in time. With Pere Ubu now being fair game for discussion, may I assume that it will only be a matter of time before Cle contemporaries the Dead Boys, the Electric Eels, the Mirrors, and the Pagans also receive posts of their own here? That would be awesome, my friend.

  8. The conversion of Wuthering Expectations into a punk history blog is an appealing but unlikely idea.

    Glad to have another fine Ubu reader.

  9. I would love to join in this reading event but I checked all over for online translated works by Ubu and could find nothing-if anyone has a link please share it-maybe the translations are all under copyright still-I will enjoy the posts in any case but it would be nice to join im

  10. Ubu Roi is both obscene and insane, so I guess there was no great rush to drag it into English. Thus, all translations are still under copyright.

    You could just read it in French - Jarry's French makes no sense, so a lack of facility with the language is is in the spirit of the thing.

    The Wayback Machine does lead to a translation of Act I, Scene 1, which should be plenty for any potential reader to discover if it is for him or her. No, that's not right - I mean, to discover why it is not for anyone.

  11. thanks- I booked mark this to read-I guess there is no need to read a play by an absurdist in a logical well planned fashion!-I will try to join in

  12. This sounds totally crazy! Even crazier, my library has multiple copies of the Ubu plays. I'm going to start reading Ulysses next week so why not add something even more incomprehensible? It will make Joyce seem eaasy in comparison.

  13. Sadly (or, perhaps, fortunately) I'm booked this summer with Greek classics. But I look forward avidly to reading posts on All Ubu, All the Time.

  14. Stefanie - I have not wanted to harp on it, but Ubu Roi, in particular, is, in spite of itself, a Big Canon Great Work blah blah blah, so I am not at all surprised that a good library has multiple adaptations and translations. As you saw in Josipovici (or so I assume), Ubu is Important.

    However: Ulysses is much harder!

    Jenny: That's the spirit!

  15. We saw Ubu Roi a couple of years ago in Boston at what must have been a disreputable theatre. We're still arguing about what exact substance was used to paint the back wall of the stage during the performance, but it was not a nice substance.

    I'll think about it. I might do it. If the library has a copy.

    Did you know that there was a rock-opera called Ubu Rocks? I've only seen the poster for that one.

  16. Actually, Josipovici entirely overlooked Ubu. Shame on him! ;)

  17. What! I blame Richard. All Richard's fault:

    "With people like Borges, Jarry, Proust, Robbe-Grillet, and Woolf getting a thumbs up from Josipovici..."

  18. Don't blame Richard. It might be me who overlooked a passing mention of Jarry. Be that as it may though, even if Josipovici did mention Jarry he didn't actually discuss him. Or maybe he did and I just blocked that part of the book out of my memory.

  19. Merdre! I am generally blame-worthy but not here! Ubu Roi actually actually gets mentioned (sans the title) on page 139, and Jarry gets another mention (this time totally in passing) on page 153. Lumping the Anything Ubu Readalong Opportunity father figure in with Ionesco and Beckett in terms of their convention-assaulting sensibilities, Josipovici writes in the earlier example that the three "have to make it clear from the start that what they are doing is completely ridiculous, preposterous in fact, and they find different ways of doing so and then of filling up the length of time an audience expects to sit in a theatre." Not the greatest compliment ever perhaps, but in context (set against staid conventional theater), a compliment nonetheless!

  20. As long as it's not my fault. It all proves my point. I like the "concept + filler" formulation, a useful one with a great deal of 20th century art.

  21. This post and the following conversation has me sniggering, which is a good sign. Also, I interlibrary-loaned myself some Ubu. I'm going to at least look at it. :)

  22. What's making *me* snicker is your "Currently reading" list.

  23. Now that particular nonsense will continue off and on all month, unless I get sick of it. SUBUmissions are welcome.

  24. I propose a Jacques Vaché Readalong Opportunity for all survivors of this month's Ubu Fest. If you like, we could sell him as an epistolary novelist in the style of Choderlos de Laclos...

  25. I was able to locate a 2007 traslation of Ubu Roi-by Patrick Whittaker-so I will be happily joining in-

  26. Holy crap, look what happens when I leave the country. On cherchera Ubu roi chez Gilbert Joseph cet après-midi.

  27. The problem - I mean challenge - I mean opportunity presented by a Jacques Vaché readalong - the problem for me - would be finding him in English. In summary, I am all for it.

    mel, excellent; Emily, welcome home.

  28. We're actually still in Toulouse, which enabled me to pick up a copy of Ubu roi today at the bookstore. (My french friend: "Ah yes, it is very well known in France this Ubu roi, although I have not read it.") If they don't throw me and my baggage off the plane for exceeding the weight limit, I can join in.

  29. Toulouse is probably a lot like home.

    Your French friend's response is very French.

  30. Aha, t'was Ubu, ere Ubu saw 't, aha.

    I'm in.

  31. By my green candle, that's outstanding news, Rise!

  32. I am perhaps a day late in my posting on Ubo Roi-I loved the work

    My Post on Ubo Roi thanks to you and Nicole for hosting this and sorry to be late in posting-maybe Jarry would excuse me?

  33. King Ubu might not excuse you, but everyone else will.