An Unrecognized Precursor to Heidegger: Alfred Jarry

by Φ


Pataphysics (epi meta ta phusika) has its exact and explicit object the great Turning, the overcoming of metaphysics, whether in itself or outside itself, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics. We can thus consider Heidegger’s work as a development of pataphysics in conformity with the principles of Sophrotates the Armenian, and his first disciple, Alfred Jarry. The great resemblances, memorial or historical, concern the Being of phenomena, planetary technology, and the treatment of language […]
Because it confuses Being with beings, metaphysics in its entirety stands in the withdrawal of Being, or forgetfulness. Technology as the effective mastery of Being is the heir to metaphysics: it complete metaphyiscs, it realizes it. Action and life “have killed thought, therefore let us Live, and in so doing we will become Masters.” In this sense, it is Ubu who represents the fat being, the outcome of metaphysics as planetary technology and a completely mechanized science, the science of machines in all its sinister frenzy. anarchy is the bomb, or the comprehension of technology. Jarry puts forward curious conception of anarchism: “Anarchy Is,” but it makes Being lower itself to the being of science and technology (Ubu himself will become an anarchist in order to better ensure he is obeyed). More generally, Jarry’s entire oeuvre ceaselessly invokes science and technology; it is populated with machines and places itself under the sign of Bicycle. The bicycle is not a simple machine, but the simple model of a Machine appropriate to the times. And it is the Bicycle that transforms the Passion, as the Christian metaphysics of the death of God, into an eminently technical relay race. The Bicycle, with its chain and gears, is the essence of technology: it envelops and develops, it brings about the great Turning of the earth. The bicycle is the frame, like Heidegger’s “fourfold.”
If the problem is a complex one, however, it is because technology and technologized science, for both Jarry and Heidegger, do not simply entail the withdrawal or forgetting of Being. Being also shows itself in technology by the very fact that it withdraws from it, insofar as it withdraws. But this can only be comprehended pataphysically (ontologically), and not metaphysically. This is why Ubu invents pataphysics at the same time he promotes planetary technology: he comprehends the essence of technology—the comprehension Heidegger imprudently credited to National Socialism. What Heidegger finds in Nazism (a populist tendency), Jarry finds in anarchism (a right-wing tendency). In both authors, technology seems to be the site of combat in which Being is sometimes lost in forgetting or in withdrawal, while at other times, on the contrary, it shows itselfor unveils itself in it. It is not enough to oppose Being to its forgetting or withdrawal, since what defines the loss of Being is rather the forgetting of forgetting, the withdrawal of the withdrawal, whereas withdrawal and forgetting are the manner by which Being shows itself, or is able to show itself. The essence of technology is not technology, and “must harbor in itself the growth of the saving power.” Thus, it is the culmination of metaphysics in technology that makes possible the overcoming of metaphysics, that is, pataphysics. hence the importance of the theory of science and the experimentations with machines as the integral parts of pataphysics: planetary technology is not simply the loss of Being, but the possibility of salvation. […]
Undertakings like those of Heidegger or Jarry should not be compared with linguistics, but rather with the anaogous undertakings of Roussel, Brisset, or Wolfson. The difference consists in this: Wolfson maintains the Tower of Babel, and makes use of every language minus one to constitute the language of the future in which this one must disappear; Roussel on the contrary makes use of only one language, but he carves out from it, as the equivalent of another language, homophonous series, which say something else entirely with similar sounds; and Brisset makes use of one language in order to pull out syllabic or phonic elements that may be present in other languages, but that say the same thing, and that in turn form the secret language of the Origin or the Future. Jarry and Heidegger have yet another procedure: they work in principle with two languages, activating a dead language within a living language, in such a way that the living language is transformed & transmuted.