The Ubu Plays by Alfred Jarry. Hardcover book published by Methuen 1968.
I think I wrote awhile ago about how my reading one thing often leads to another thing, which then leads to another thing etc etc. I love this. I once read a Henry Miller book and before I knew what day it was I was reading five volumes of Anais Nin diaries… and thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. In this particular instance I discovered the Ubu Plays after listening to the excellent music of Pere Ubu. (After 31 years they are still one of my favourite bands. Listen to this.) As a young 18 year old in 1981, this music was mind blowing… it still is mind blowing. So there I was a fan of this group and then I find out they got their name from a play by Alfred Jarry. So I go off and search for the book. I think I had to order it in the end as I couldn’t find a copy (there was no interwebs available and back in the day one would go into a bookshop and order a book which could take up to a few months to arrive… hard to imagine now). Here’s the first page of act one of Ubu Rex:
After that it just gets more degenerate and absurd. It’s brilliant. So brilliant, that at the first performance in 1896, the audience rioted. Now that’s my kind of theatre.
Jarry wrote some other stuff as well, some of which I have read, all of which I have enjoyed. At the time of my discovering and exploring his oeuvre, I was working at a large University library and as I often did at the time, I had a quick look in the catalogue to see what we had on the shelves. Oh boy, there was an 8 volume set of the complete works. Unfortunately they were “Oeuvres Completes”. Yep, they were in Francais. Which is no good to me, although as I held them in my hands, I very briefly thought I could learn French and then read them… it was a very brief thought… very brief.
So, here we are many years later and I find a copy of the Ubu Plays as a hard cover. Amazing. I still have my old paperback copy of the book but I am tempted to keep this hardcover… which as tempting as it may be, I won’t do, as I’m more of a bookseller and less of a book collector than I was 31 years ago. But you know what i would collect if by chance it were to exist?… the English translation of “Oeuvres completes”. Adieu.