Alphonse Allais  

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"Sous son manteau, sous sa robe, sous sa chemise, elle est nue, inexorablement nue !"--On n’est pas des bœufs (1896) by Alphonse Allais

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Alphonse Allais (20 October 1854 – 28 October 1905) was a French writer and humorist. He best-known today for Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man (1884) and his set of monochrome images, the Album primo-avrilesque (1897).



Allais was born in Honfleur, Calvados. He died in Paris.


He is the author of many collections of whimsical writings. A poet as much as a humorist, he in particular cultivated the verse form known as holorhyme, i.e. made up entirely of homophonous verses, where entire lines rhyme. For example:

par les bois du djinn où s'entasse de l'effroi,
parle et bois du gin ou cent tasses de lait froid.

Allais is also credited with the earliest known example of a completely silent musical composition. Composed in 1897, his Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man -- consisting of nine blank measures -- predates comparable works by John Cage and Erwin Schulhoff by a considerable margin.

Allais participated in humorous exhibitions, including those of the Salon des Arts Incohérents of 1883 and 1884, held at the Galerie Vivienne. At these, inspired by his friend Paul Bilhaud's 1882 exhibit of an entirely black painting entitled "Negroes fight in a tunnel" (which he later reproduced with a slightly different title), Allais exhibited arguably some of the earliest examples of monochrome painting: for instance his plain white sheet of Bristol paper Template:Lang (First Communion of Anemic Young Girls In The Snow) (1883), and a similar red work Apoplectic Cardinals Harvesting Tomatoes on the Shore of the Red Sea (Aurora Borealis Effect) (1884). Allais published his Album primo-avrilesque in 1897, a monograph with seven monochrome artworks, accompanied by the score of his silent funeral march. (Bilhaud was not the first to create an all-black artwork: for example, Robert Fludd published an image of "Darkness" in his 1617 book on the origin and structure of the cosmos; and Bertall published his black Vue de La Hogue (effet de nuit) in 1843.) However, Allais's activity bears more similarity to 20th century Dada, or Neo-Dada, and particularly the works of the Fluxus group of the 1960s, than to 20th century monochrome painting since Malevich.

While consuming absinthe at café tables, Allais wrote 1600 newspaper and magazine pieces, and co-founded the Club of the Hydropaths (those allergic to water). He was a journalist, columnist and editor as well.

A film based on his novel L'Affaire Blaireau appeared in 1958 as Neither Seen Nor Recognized . Earlier versions with the same title as the original novel appeared in 1923 and 1932.

Miles Kington, humorous writer and musician, translated some of Allais' pieces into idiomatic English as The World of Alphonse Allais (UK). In the United States, Doug Skinner has translated twelve books by Allais, including Captain Cap and his only novel.

Honfleur has a street, rue Alphonse Allais, and a school, Collège Alphonse Allais, named for him. There is a Place Alphonse-Allais in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. The Académie Alphonse-Allais has awarded an annual prize, the Prix Alphonse-Allais, in his honor since 1954.


The Alphonse Allais Museum, also called Le Petit Musée, in Honfleur, claiming to be the smallest museum in France (8 m2), consists of a small collection of "rarities", including the skull of Voltaire at age seventeen and a true piece of a False Cross (cf. True Cross), as well as inventions such as a special Chinese teacup made for left-handed people (cf. chawan), blue, white, and red starch to keep flags flying when there is no wind, black confetti for widows, and so on. The museum was founded on the second floor in Allais' parents' pharmacy in 1999 by the owner of the pharmacy, and moved to a new location in 2019 (rue des Petites boucheries).


Two non-profit organizations celebrate Allais:

  • The Association des Amis d'Alphonse Allais (AAAA), founded in 1934, manages the Allais Museum and promotes young humorists who follow in the spirit of Allais.
  • The Académie Alphonse Allais, created in 1954, Allais' 100th birthday, by Henri Jeanson, like the Académie française, names new members annually and sponsors the "Alphonse Allais" literary prize.

Principal works


Album primo-avrilesque (April fool-ish Album), 1897

Other works

Linking in as of Dec 2021

1854 in literature , 1854 in poetry , 1905 in literature , 1905 in poetry , 2 + 2 = 5 , 4′33″ , Album primo-avrilesque , Alfred Capus , Allais , Anatole Jakovsky , Anna t'Haron , Anthology of Black Humor , Bernard Jenny , Black Square (painting) , Boulevard Saint-Michel , Brian Stableford , Doug Skinner , Edward Gorey , Éric Vigner , Erik Satie , Erwin Schulhoff , Francisque Sarcey , Henry Monnier , Holorime , Honfleur , Incoherents , Instant coffee , Jean Moréas , Jean-Louis-Auguste Commerson , Kickshaws , Le Chat Noir , Le Havre , List of French artistic movements , List of French-language authors , List of minimalist composers , List of Russian-language novelists , List of silent musical compositions , Literary nonsense , Louis de Robert , Maurice Donnay , Miles Kington , Minimalism (visual arts) , Monochrome painting , Monsieur et Madame jokes , Ni vu, ni connu , Paris in the Belle Époque , Paul Bilhaud , Paul Fabre , Rhyme , Saint-Ouen Cemetery , Sonic Arts Network , The Blaireau Case (1923 film) , The Blaireau Case (1932 film) , Timeline of twentieth-century theatre , Wandelweiser , Writers in Paris

See also

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