Who was Alfred Jarry really? And how did this angry young man from the provinces come to invent pataphysics and to write the revolutionary drama Ubu Roi? In this, the first full-length biography of Jarry in English, Alastair Brotchie, himself a central figure in the 'Coll ege de 'Pataphysique' and scholar of the avant-garde, gives us a richly documented, beautifully illustrated, and intimate portrait of the complex personality behind the Ubu masks. I found it a real page-turner. -- Marjorie Perloff, author of The Futurist Moment and Unoriginal Genius Alastair Brotchie has achieved something very rare. In giving us the first detailed account of Jarry's life, he shares a lot of discoveries and unknown documents but avoids reducing the life to a collection of biographical or archival facts. Indeed, he makes us feel, think, act, see, and almost speak in connivance with this delicate and strange monster, Alfred Jarry. -- Thieri Foulc, cofounder of the Oupeinpo and Provediteur-Editeur General of the College de 'Pataphysique Aficionados of Alfred Jarry's writings will welcome this urgently necessary life of the inventor of 'Pataphysics, that mad and minor science of imaginary solutions. Alastair Brotchie's biography fills an enormous gap in our understanding not only of Jarry's complex life but of the tangled sociocultural networks of tastes and antipathies that constructed the Banquet Years. Impeccably researched, masterfully written, and profusely illustrated, Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life is guaranteed to broaden and deepen Anglophone interest in Jarry (whom Cyril Connolly dubbed the Santa Claus of the atomic age) and 'Pataphysics alike. -- Steve McCaffery, David Gray Chair Professor of Poetry and Letters, University at Buffalo, coeditor of Imagining Language: An Anthology
Alastair Brotchie is a founder of the London publishing house Atlas Press, a Regent of the College de 'Pataphysique in Paris, and the editor of books and anthologies on Surrealism, Dada, and the Oulipo.
Alfred Jarry provides many new facts, some pertinent analyses, and a clutch of outrageously amusing yarns. -- Mark Polizzotti Bookforum Alastair Brotchie brilliantly evokes the avant-garde artistic movements of fin-de-siecle Paris in all their glittering grubbiness. -- Charlotte Keith Varsity Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life by Alastair Brotchie is a superb chronicle of the life and times of the fin-de-siecle French writer. Times Literary Supplement -- (Book of the Year 2011) An enthralling, scrupulously researched, and elegantly written biography. -- Mark Ford The New York Review of Books [Brotchie] gives us an unmatched and vivid picture of the belle epoque's avant-garde, of which Jarry was an important, original part. -- Michael Moorcock The Guardian ...[Brotchie's] tone is clear and informed, rooted in a familiarity with Jarry that has something quite personal about it, which is all for the good. -- Allan Graubard Leonardo On-Line Brotchie's archival work and translations are meticulous...Highly recommended. -- M. Gaddis Rose Choice [Brotchie] skilfully moves between providing a relatively straightforward and sympathetic account of the writer's life and critically sorting through the narratives that have sustained and shaped the long-standing image of Jarry... Brotchie's refusal to mythologise stands as the book's greatest strength, and as a fitting testament to the manifold complexity of Alfred Jarry. -- Karl Whitney 3:AM Magazine How a schoolboy caricature evolved into Jarry's best-known creation, his monstrous 'every-man', Pere Ubu, is a fascinating story which Brotchie tells with impressive scholarship, sympathy and wit. -- Peter Blegvad The Spectator Brotchie's painstaking and drily funny biography is now the most ample account of Jarry and his importance that is available in our language; it is unlikely ever to be bettered. -- Kevin Jackson The Literary Review That Jarry comes across as both more and less than we might expect from his reputation and his writings is a result of Brotchie so resolutely and expertly keeping his eye on the available facts and not allowing himself to wander into speculation and hero-worship. -- William Bamberger Rain Taxi