The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I  

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"Guillaume Apollinaire once called on Jarry at home.

“Monsieur Jarry?”

“On the third floor and a half,” answered the concierge.

The answer astonished me. But I climbed up to where Jarry lived–actually on the third floor and a half. The ceilings of the building had appeared wastefully high to the owner and he had doubled the number of stories by cutting them in half horizontally. This building, which is still standing, had therefore about fifteen floors; but since it rose no higher than the other buildings in the quarter, it amounted to merely the reduction of a skyscraper.

It turned out that Jarry’s place was filled with reductions. This half-floor room was the reduction of an apartment in which its occupant was quite comfortable standing up. But being taller than he, I had to stay in a stoop. The bed was the reduction of a bed; that is to say, a mere pallet. Jarry said that low beds were coming back into fashion. The writing table was the reduction of a table, for Jarry wrote flat on his stomach on the floor. The furniture was the reduction of furniture—there was only the bed. On the wall hung the reduction of a picture. It was a portrait, most of which he had burned away, leaving only the head, which resembled a certain lithograph I know of Balzac. The library was the reduction of a library, and that is saying a lot for it. It was composed of a cheap edition of Rabelais and two or three volumes of the Bibliotheque rose. On the mantel stood a large stone phallus, a gift from Felicien Rops. Jarry kept this member, which was considerably larger than life size, always covered with a violet skullcap of velvet, ever since the day the exotic monolith had frightened a certain literary lady who was all out of breath from climbing three and a half floors and at a loss how to act in this unfurnished cell.

“Is that a cast?” the lady asked.

“No,” said Jarry. “It’s a reduction.”"

--The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I (1958) by Roger Shattuck

French original from the meeting between Apollinaire and Jarry:

– Monsieur Alfred Jarry ? – Au troisième et demi. Cette réponse de la concierge m’étonna. Je montai chez Alfred Jarry qui effectivement habitait au troisième et demi. Les étages de la maison ayant paru trop élevés de plafond au propriétaire, il les avait dédoublés. Cette maison, qui existe toujours, a de cette façon une quinzaine d’étages, mais comme, en définitive, elle n’est pas plus élevée que les autres, elle n’est qu’une réduction de gratte-ciel. Au demeurant, les réductions abondaient dans la demeure d’Alfred Jarry. Ce troisième et demi n’était qu’une réduction d’étage, où, debout, le locataire se tenait à l’aise, tandis que, plus grand que lui, j’étais obligé de me courber. Le lit n’était qu’une réduction de lit, c’est-à-dire un grabat : les lits bas étant à la mode, me dit Jarry. La table à écrire n’était qu’une réduction de table, car Jarry écrivait couché à plat ventre sur le plancher. Le mobilier n’était qu’une réduction de mobilier qui ne se composait que du lit. Au mur était suspendue une réduction de tableau. C’était un portrait de Jarry dont il avait brûlé la plus grande partie, ne laissant que la tête qui le montrait semblable au Balzac d’une certaine lithographie que je connais. La bibliothèque n’était qu’une réduction de bibliothèque, et c’est beaucoup dire. Elle se composait d’une édition populaire de Rabelais et de deux ou trois volumes de Bibliothèque rose. Sur la cheminée se dressait un grand phalle de pierre, travail japonais, don de Félicien Rops à Jarry, qui tenait le chibre plus grand que nature toujours recouvert d’une calotte de velours violet, depuis le jour où le monolithe exotique avait effrayée une dame de lettres tout essoufflée d’avoir monté au troisième et demi et dépaysée par cette grande chamblerie démeublée. – C’est un moulage ? avait demandé la dame. – Non, répondit Jarry, c’est une réduction.

Guillaume Apollinaire, le Flâneur des deux rives.

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The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I (1958) is a book by Roger Shattuck.




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