15 January 2014

Alphonse Allais: Cimetière parisien de Saint-Ouen #1

'Les gens qui ne rient jamais
ne sont pas des gens sérieux.'
'People who never laugh
aren't serious people.'
This is such a wonderful truism that I had to buy the postcard and, er, post it to my blog. This is from a newsagent opposite the Porte Lescot entrance to Les Halles, which for some years has had racks of such cards with quotations from authors all over the world, although I think maybe on a small number the point was lost in translation. Here, though, it can't be lost in my translation, and even though I have a ferocious allergy to most translations I have a feeling that Alphonse Allais (1854–1905) – absurdist, journalist, short story writer, etc – may translate fairly well into different languages. Although he was sometimes given to puns, which rarely translate at all. Maybe this is one of the reasons why he's not very well known in Anglophonia, although I note that Miles Kington did some translating of Allais's work.
I am a beginner to Allais's writing. However, by keying in "Flann O'Brien" and "Alphonse Allais" it's interesting to note that others like myself – but almost always French – have seen some similarity between the two writers. What struck me most was Allais's short story 'Les Petits cochons' ('The Little Pigs'), which could almost be a precursor of The Third Policeman: here, people are victims of 'delphacomanie' (yes, 'delphacomania'), which is manifested by a compulsion to create models of increasingly smaller little pigs out of breadcrumbs, until you need a magnifying glass to see them.
LE 23 OCTOBRE 1905'
This plaque on the building where Allais died is at 26 rue d'Amsterdam, 9th arrondissement, Paris.
Alphonse Allais was buried in the old cemetery at Saint-Ouen, although the original grave is no longer there.
'Alphonse ALLAIS
Érivain humoristique
1855 [sic] – 1905'
'Sous cette dalle (en pente) a reposé Alphonse Allais,
écrivain humoriste.
Enterré le 28 octobre 1905.
Sublimé le 21 avril 1944 par une bombe de la R.A.F.
Transféré virtuellement à Montmartre le 24 octobre 2005.'
I'm sure – perhaps especially because he was an Anglophile – that Allais would have seen it as very funny (in an absurd way), his grave blown up by an RAF bomb. So far I've read only four short stories, but he's very rapidly growing on me.

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