Alfred Jarry and Pataphysics

Down another winding alley through the Surrealist Rhizomaze, echoes of Dada antecedent Alfred Jarry 5 filter through surrealism in the 20s and 30s, are heard, integrated and built upon by Antonin Artaud in his seminal text Le Theatre et son Double, 1938, and reverberate in the 50s literature critic Martin Esslin terms ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. 52 pataphysics’s grotesque parodies of the bourgeoisie, 53 mingled with the surrealist preference for the illogicality of dreamscape, percolate through Artaud’s treatises on theatre technique to permeate the work of Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Adamov and other Absurdist playwrights. 54 Post the horror of World War 1, surrealism attempts a spirited, schismatic attack on the logic of everyday consciousness, hopeful of change: post the even more horrific World War 2, all optimism is gone. The Theatre of the Absurd abandons rational theatrical devices, using surrealist, dreamscape incongruity to dramatise a profound sense of the meaninglessness of life and the senselessness of hope. 55

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