Monday, July 03, 2006


Just home from a book trip to Paris. I added a few treasures to my Ububibliothèque.
After visiting the 'colonnes de Buren', to 'pataphysicians known as 'colonnes d'Ubu Reine',

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and admiring how the inventor of 'pataphysics has become part of the high society of Par-Isis,

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I started my expedition 'sur les quais de la Seine'. Mosbunall bouquinistes were closed, but from the few who had opened their green book cases I found some treasures.

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André Salmon, "Le monocle à deux coups", JJ Pauvert 1968 314 p.
Salmon was one of the more obscure founding fathers of the Collège de 'Pataphysique. He published some poetry 'Ames en peine et corps sans âmes' in 1905 and wrote two other novels: 'Archives du club des Onze' and 'Manuscrit trouvé dans un chapeau'. The backflap promises a masterwork of double meanings (body and soul), with a murderer and/or a victim, where all meanings melt finally in an absurdist ending of confusion. In a style which reminds me of both René Daumal and Raymond Queneau.

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"Guide de la France Mystérieuse", Tchou, 1964, 1030 p.
This monumental book is a fortean guide to mysterious France. Other volumes exist according to the different french regions. Beautifully published with a treasure of bizarre engravings, mostly original but some of them collages which reminds of Max Ernst's works. Each city appears alphabetically. Little symbols at the sides show the theme of the mystery: 'sacred places', 'fantastic creatures', 'underground treasures' etc.
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Georges Perec, "53 Jours", P.O.L. 1989 ISBN 2-86744-161-7 336 p.
This was Perec's last, unfinished, novel. Perec is one of the most prolific members of the OuLiPo, the writer's collective that invents new models and 'contraintes' or framework for new literature. He wrote 'La Disparition' without using the letter 'e', 'La vie mode d'emploi' (a large opus somehow based on mathematics), 'Les revenentes' (with only the letter 'e' ass vowel), and lots more. Only the first 11 chapters were written. Perec's notes about the last 17 chapters are included, which provide insight into his encyclopedic mindset. Sadly he died the 3rd of March 1982 before finishing this novel.

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Marcel Schwob, "Le Livre de Monelle", Mercure De France 1959 , uncut, 160 p.
Schwob (1867 - 1905), a contemporary of Alfred Jarry, wrote this nihilist scripture, as seen through the eyes of a child, a symbolist fairy tale of a little girl creating her own world, sometimes of nightmarish proportions.
This book can be read online (in french)

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After this I visited bookshop 'Actualités' Rue Dauphine # 38. Mostly leftist political books, lots of books by Marx, Engels, Benjamin… Anarchist literature also, fanzines and leaflets of underground organisations. Found a lot of international situationism material, though I must admit that i find writings by Guy Debord boring as hell… I prefer the angry humor of Raoul Vaneigem or dadaistic writings by Asger Jorn.

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Kim deitch: "The Stuff of Dreams" pt 2 and pt 3, Fantagraphics 2004-5
Deitch, the wacko PK Dick of comics, wrote another oniric tale with the invisible Waldo, another of my favourite imaginary cats. I haven't found part 1, but I reckon if I had it would remain as bizarre anyway. Why oh why are there no midgets in midgetsville?

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Tommaso Campanella: "La cité du soleil", Mille et une Nuits 2000 96 p. ISBN 2-84205-450-4
Cyrano de Bergerac: "L'autre Monde", Mille et une Nuits 1998 184 p. ISBN 2-84205-316-8
Two famous utopias, two diatribes against the state and the church from the 17th century.

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E.T.A. Hoffmann: "Contes Nocturnes", Phébus 1979 416 p. ISBN 2-85940-992-0
I always liked Hoffmann's strange stories. They were part of the gothic movement in Germany, but somehow always had an eerie surrealist twist. The cat Murr is one of my favourite cats of litterature, together with Lewis Carroll's cat of Cheshire. These stories were first published in 1817. Some are considered seminal texts, the very first writings of horror literature (and an influence on Sigmund Freud's thoughts). Scary cozyness and comforting terror…

I found the bookstore 'Mona Lisait' (Mona did read) at rue Danton #6. All old unraid books from stocks. I discovered a real treasure in the basement: two numbers of 'Bizarre' in minted condition. Some people would commit a murder for those, published by one of two revolutionary editors in the french language: Jean-Jacques Pauvert (the other one is Swiss Eric Losfeld). This legendary magazine from the fifties was the soil from which many pataphysicians realized their life purpose. Surrealism, dadaism and a thick layer of serious humor, with special issues about strange literature, naive art, literature studies etc. made Bizarre a holy grail to me. I only owned one copy for which I had paid a lot ten years ago. Now I tripled my collection for just a few euros (the poor librarian had no idea what she sold me).

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Bizarre 11, 1950 96 p.
A text by Jean-Hugues Saimont, one by Philippe Soupault and a study by Thomas Owen of my favourite horror writer Jean Ray. And extremely strange illustrations. Yummy.
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Bizarre 31 1963 48 p.
Photogrammes by Segalat and especially some texts by protoprankster André Frédérique - a guy who used to dress as a priest to insult nuns in public places!

I finished with my yearly visit to the best library in the entire multiverse. Every time I go there I have the impression I took up some weight. Every year it's harder even to pass the entrance door, because every year more books pile up in front of each other op to the ceiling. I think this year it's up to four layers of books, but since there are not many shelves cupboards and most books are simply put upon each other, I have no idea how far the walls are. There is only room for two or three customers, and they have to get out on the street to pass each other. The owner seems to take it all in zen-like fashion, standing (or sitting) on a pile in a corner, using another pile as a table. A house made of books. All of them - absolutely all of them - treasures. All in excellent condition, about diverse subjects as underground comics, surrealist books, limited artsy editions, revolutionary texts, mangas, bizarre literature, obscure SF and fantasy, magick, erotica, thousands of fanzines in all possible formats… I told the owner he'll end up with only accepting dwarves as clients, and he replied he had a lot of dwarves as customers… who managed to discover marvels at the bottom that other customers couldn't find. I sometimes tested him and the guy knows every book in his store and where they are.

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If visiting Paris, go pay a tribute to 'Un regard Moderne', rue Gît-Le-Coeur. The man will one day be responsible for creating a black hole.

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I bought a number of the "Monitoires du Collège de 'Pataphysique" # 29 (=l'Expectateur # 28), 1993, 98 pages. I've been recieving their publications since 1996, and older books sometimes pop up. this one is avery disturbing number about Philippe Merlen. This writer with high pataphysical potential, friend of most founder of the Collège, enlisted the WaffenSS in the second world war. He proved his faith in the nazi doctrines, and yet remained a pataphysician through his writings, which usually deal with the equality of all values ('Alles bleibt daselbe'). Lots of pictures of a guy in uniform. Doesn't feel very comfortable to read that the college accepts such members…
Of course he never existed and it's a literary prank to express the most extreme form of 'pataphysics. Most founders of the Collège were actually heroes of the résistance.

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Ian Monk: "Elémentaire, mon cher", bibliothèque Oulipienne #128, 2003 36 p. ex. number 70
Numbers one till 52 were published in three thick volumes which I own; 53 to 85 in three other volumes which I havent' seen yet; the individual booklets are extremely hard to find. Oulipo grouped geniuses as Georges Perec, Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino and even Marcel Duchamp to produce new forms of literature. its actual members still meet once month and edit their findings in these little books.

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Clément Pansaers: "Le Pan-Pan au cul du nu nègre", Allia 2005 ISBN 2-84485-196-7 48 p.
This individualistic writer (1885-1922) only published three books in his short life. 'Bar Nicanor' and 'Apologie de la Paresse' are his other two. He is probably the only Flemish - and even Belgian artist who briefly joined the Dada movement. He was admired by most surrealist writers but still remains quite unknown.
"To live is an imaginary disease".

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Comte de Lautréamont: "Oeuvres Complètes" José Corti 2005 ISBN 2-7143-0210-6 Uncut, 432 p.
a facsimili edition of a book of 1953. I cannot even begin to express the importance of Isidore Ducasse, who nicknamed himself Lautréamont, for the modern literature; he influence worldwide other writers but still remains an enigma. The disturbing 'Les Chants de Maldoror', his most famous work, is probably the very first surrealist writing.


Jan said...

Very interesting post.Thanks. Who edited Bizarre? Do you have more details?

borsky said...

As far as I know Bizarre was first published by Swiss revolutionary editor Eric Losfeld in the fifties. Another revolutionary editor, Frenchman and writer Jean-Jacques Pauvert, took over in 1955.
Sadly, "Losfeld Editeur" stopped aeons agobut a search on these words can still offer a lot of secondhand books. Similarly Jean-Jacques Pauvert was bought by Hachette in 1973…
Antique numbers of Bizarre can be found here:
Spijtig hé

Jan said...

Thanks for the info.

I've done a bit of searching myself and this is what I found.


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