Ionesco, 1984

From the Paris Review’s series of interviews, this one by Shusha Guppy of Eugene Ionesco.

The Collège [de Pataphysique] was an enterprise dedicated to nihilism and irony, which in my view corresponded to Zen. Its chief occupation was to devise commissions, whose job it was to create subcommissions, which in turn did nothing. There was one commission which was preparing a thesis on the history of latrines from the beginning of civilization to our time. The members were students of Dr. Faustrol, who was an invented character and the prophet of Alfred Jarry. So the purpose of the Collège was the demolition of culture, even of surrealism, which they considered too organized. . . . . Anybody could join, and the first grade was that of Auditeur Amphitéote. After that, you became a Regent, and finally a Satrap. The satrap was entitled to be addressed as Votre Transcendence, and when you left his presence you had to walk backwards. . . . . Our meetings took place in a little café-restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and we discussed nothing, because we believed—and I still do—that there is no reason for anything, that everything is meaningless.

Our God was Alfred Jarry, and, apart from our meetings, we made pilgrimages to his grave near Paris. As you know, Jarry had written Ubu roi, which was a parody of Macbeth. Much later I wrote a play based on Macbeth too. Anyway, the Collège gave decorations, the most important of which was La Gidouille, which was a large turd to be pinned on your lapel.



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