The Pataphysician's Library: An Exploration of Alfred Jarry's Livres Pairs


The Pataphysician's Library is a study of aspects of 1890s French literature, with specific reference to the traditions of Symbolism and Decadence. Its main focus is Alfred Jarry, who has proved, perhaps surprisingly, to be one of the more durable authors. The originality of this study lies in its use of the enigmatic list of books termed the livres pairs, which appears in Jarry's 1898 novel Gestes et Opinions du docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien, his best-known prose work. The greatest interest of the livres pairs lies in a group of works by Jarry's friends and contemporaries, primarily Leon Bloy, Georges Darien, Gustave Kahn, Catulle Mendes, Josephin Madan, Rachilde, and Henri de Regnier. Several of these authors feature as the lords of islands visited by the pataphysician Dr Faustroll in his curious voyage around Paris. In conjunction with Jarry's own works, the contemporary livres pairs serve to illustrate the vibrant and experimental atmosphere in which these authors worked.

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