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Le porc, le coq et le serpent.

Francois Caradec. Le porc, le coq et le serpent. Paris. Nadeau. 1999. 93 pages. 86 F. ISBN 2-86232-155-3.

LE PORC, LE COQ ET LE SERPENT is an intriguing collection of reflections, anecdotes, and prose poems described by the author as "traces" of his numerous visits to Nepal. Francois Caradec is identified on the book cover as a regent of the College de 'Pataphysique. He is known for his biographies of Alphonse Allais, Raymond Roussel, and Comte de Lautreamont as well as his essays on Alfred Jarry, Arthur Rimbaud, and Raymond Queneau. His interest in popular culture is expressed in such works as the Dictionnaire du francais argotique and a number of works on popular music. Caradec's association with the 'Pataphysique movement goes back to the period after World War II and the long hours spent at Les Amis du Livre bookstore, where he discovered Jarry, Valery, Breton, and later Queneau, Prevert, Sartre, and Maurice Nadeau.

'Pataphysique was invented by Jarry, who first used the term in Ubu cocu and noted casually that it is a science that came about because the need for it was widely felt. In a later work, Les gestes et opinions du docteur Faustrall, pataphysicien, written in 1898 and published in 1911, 'Pataphysique was introduced as the discovery of the hero, Dr. Faustroll, a science-fiction-style adventurer. New definitions were added: e.g. "'Pataphysique is the science of imaginary solutions, the science of the particular, and the science of the exception to the rule, which is an exception to the exception." Jarry insisted that 'Pataphysique must always be preceded by an apostrophe "so as to avoid an easy pun." "It is the science," he specified, "of that which comes beyond metaphysics, considered either by itself or outside of itself." Jarry's work and his science of 'Pataphysique became popular after the First World War and led to a number of departures in literature and the visual arts. It provided timely inspiration for avant-garde movements, including Dadaism, symbolism, and surrealism.

In a short and deceptively simple work, Caradec succeeds in projecting many of the themes that have come to be associated with 'Pataphysique: tolerance for ambivalence and ambiguity, dialectical fluidity, a sense of mystery, an attitude of playfulness, recognition of the importance of humor, and doubt regarding logical thought and the validity of language. What is particularly original in Le porc is the affinity that it highlights between 'Pataphysique and the Buddhist tradition. It may be of interest to relate this approach to the results of recent psychological research showing Asian university students to be more competent dialectical thinkers than Anglo-Saxon students. This means that they are more tolerant of ambiguity, less literal, and better able to hold on to opposing viewpoints as they search for synthesis. Caradec's work, cast in the style of Buddhist literature, raises the issue of the possible long-range effects of the stories one grows up with and the way they are told. The collections of short stories, maxims, and apothegms here presented do not read as written documents but as spoken exchanges abounding in dynamism and conversational energy. One searches in vain for any kind of formula, blueprint, or a set of moral dictates, finding instead numerous questions about the nature of virtue and truth, thought-provoking questions with no definitive answers.

In the true spirit of 'Pataphysique, Le porc, le coq et le serpent abounds with a spirit of playfulness, with irony, and with skepticism. However, beyond its carnivalistic character there lurks throughout the book a spirit that could, for lack of a better term, be called religious. It is a spirit of basic optimism, of regard for the most humble of creatures, of recognition for the interrelatedness of all things, and of love for the world. The fresh breeze that Le porc brings is a most welcome antidote to the ethos of literalism, legalism, and tribalism that marks our times.

Adma d'Heurle Mercy College
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:d'Heurle, Adma
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2000
Words:651
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