Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm curious if anyone ever made a connection between the two. 'pataphysics is a concept created by writer and troublemaker Alfred Jarry that describes a sort of (often humorous) science of impossible solutions. Or imaginary solutions. An example would be a Rube Goldberg-esque construction that's complex, has absolutely no potential of working in the real world, but that according to imagined principles works fine. Or maybe I'm describing a lot of Science Fiction in general? No, 'pataphysics is different. There's an interesting scene from Jarry's posthumously published "The Exploits of Dr. Faustroll, 'pataphysician", where the doctor, a companion, and a baboon pilot a large bed made out of brass rods over the streets of Paris like a gondola, with something like electrostatic energy propelling it.

Of course, since this is Jarry, the baboon has a pair of buttocks surgically connected to his face, and swears constantly, but that's another topic.

Well, we seem to have gotten off the point here, ok, so here's an example, although it removes some of the humor that's the essential component of Jarry's work:

Practical Construction of the Time Machine.

"Since Space around us is fixed, when we wish to travel in it we employ a vehicle: Duration. The role it plays in kinematics is that of an independent variable like any other and which determines the co-ordinates of the points that are being observed. Kinematics is a form of geometry. Phenomena described in it have neither before nor after, and the fact that we create such a distinction proves that we are carried through Time along with them.

We move in the same direction and with the same speed as Time, since we ourselves are part and parcel of the present. Were we able to remain immobile in the Flow of Time, in absolute Space, i.e. suddenly lock ourselves away in a Machine that could isolate us from Time (bar the small amount of the normal "speed of duration" which would remain with us by dint of its inertia), then we should be able to travel through all future and past instants successively (late we shall see that the Past lies beyond the Future, from the Machine's point of view), just as the sedentary spectator watching a panorama is under the impression that he is journeying rapidly through successive landscapes"

I don't know if that captured it. Here's a more typical example of Jarry's work:

From "Visions of the Present and Future"

"... And how much wiser when face to face with one's enemy to choose a scalpel with one's Index from the arsenal carried by three leporine slaves, and to slice off the protruding ears and nose. But the plural today is the American-style duel, a game of hide-and-seek, a fulgurating meteor which bursts and is gone, the triangular blade of the guillotine cradled back to sleep by its two blood-red arms. The sudden drop. And then the dark. Better than the guillotine: the gallows. Permanently visible and elegant: picture the worm-eaten corpses in the gibblets after the crows have passed, and their own aerial navigation. Better than the banal, dull-threatening Bomb is the Disembraining Machine: the grand-daughter of Moloch and iron Maidens, whirring away on a hillock, dashing out the brains coram populo every Lord's day. You could have one in every village, all you need is a little local Caesar. Having three obedient servants helps, to do the dirty business and to oil the machine (I prefer rubber slaves -- you can deflate them afterwards and put them away in a drawer). It heralds a renaissance of the arts: the whirling gurgling of a specially adapted organ lends a certain charm to the victims' last moments. Phynance, the justi- and puri-fication of everything, flows from a tap. The populace and his family, spattered white with brains from standing too close to the fence, return home happy and morally edified by this democratic spectacle. But such a scene of the Golden Age lies far in the future..."

Quotations taken from "Alfred Jarry: Adventures in 'Pataphysics" published by Atlas Press.

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