Pataphysical Essays

Pataphysical Essays

René Daumal

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Translated, with an introduction, by Thomas Vosteen / April 2012 / 4.5 x 7, 136 pp. / 978-0-9841155-6-3

Pataphysics: the science of imaginary solutions, of laws governing exceptions and of the laws describing the universe supplementary to this one. Alfred Jarry’s posthumous novel, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician, first appeared in 1911, and over the course of the century, his pataphysical supersession of metaphysics would influence everyone from Marcel Duchamp and Boris Vian to Umberto Eco and Jean Baudrillard. In 1948 in Paris, a group of writers and thinkers would found The College of ’Pataphysics, still going strong today. The iconoclastic René Daumal was the first to elaborate upon Jarry’s unique and humorous philosophy. Though Daumal is better known for his unfinished novel Mount Analogue and his refusal to be adopted by the Surrealist movement, this newly translated volume of writings offers a glimpse at an often overlooked Daumal: Daumal the pataphysician. Pataphysical Essays collects Daumal’s overtly pataphysical writings from 1929 to 1941, from his landmark exposition on pataphysics and laughter to his late essay, “The Pataphysics of Ghosts.” Daumal’s “Treatise on Patagrams” offers the reader everything from a recipe for the disintegration of a photographer to instructions on how to drill a fount of knowledge in a public urinal. This collection also collects Daumal’s little-known column for the Nouvelle Revue Française, “Pataphysics This Month.” Reading like a deranged encyclopedia, the articles describe a new mythology for the field of science, and amply demonstrate that the twentieth century had been a distinctly pataphysical era.

Poet, philosopher, and self-taught Sanskrit scholar René Daumal (1908–1944) devoted himself to a lifelong attempt to think through death by means of what he called “experimental metaphysics”: an attempt to address metaphysical questions through scientific methodology. After co-founding the iconoclastic journal Le Grand Jeu and rejecting overtures from the Surrealist movement, he abandoned the literary path to become a disciple of the spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff.


Pataphysical Essays is a short but satisfying read. Not only does it serve as a mirror of Daumal’s own era, but it doubles as a guidebook to our own.”
—Benjamin van Loon, Anobium

“[I]n spurning the surrealists’ psychoanalytical preoccupations, to tackle head-on the hegemony of empiricism, Daumal might also be considered as presaging contemporary comedy, which today is the vehicle of cultural and political critique for the bold.”
—Sally O'Reilly, ArtReview

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