ALPHONSE ALLAIS (1854 – 1905) began his career in Paris during the Belle Epoque. He was particularly active at the legendary cabaret Le Chat Noir, where he wrote for and edited the weekly paper. He quickly became known for his deadpan wit and inexhaustible imagination. Among other things, he also exhibited some of the first monochromatic pictures (such as his all-white “First Communion of Chlorotic Girls in the Snow” in 1883) and composed the first silent piece of music: “Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man” (1884). Throughout most of his life, he contributed columns several times a week to Le Journal and Le Sourire. These pieces were collected into twelve volumes, which he called his “Anthumous Works,” between 1892 and 1902. He also published a collection of his monochromes, Album Primo-Avrilesque, in 1897, and a novel, L’affaire Blaireau, in 1899, as well as a few plays. His later years were troubled by debt, a bad marriage, and heavy drinking; he died at 59. He was a crucial influence on Alfred Jarry, as well as on the Surrealists: Breton included him in his Anthology of Black Humor, and Duchamp was reading him on the day he died. Allais’s fascination with wordplay, puns, and holorhymes led Oulipo to call him an “anticipatory plagiarist”; the Pataphysical College dubbed him their “Patacessor.” His books have remained in print in France, and the Académie Alphonse Allais has awarded a literary prize in his honor since 1954.
Black Scat is proud to present these sublime translations by Doug Skinner.