Today, Alfred Jarry is best known for his work Ubu Roi and creating Pataphysics (Pataphysics proposed that an observation of the universe began with its paradoxes, its exceptions, and anything that lay outside habitual conventional thought). But in the days of Bohemian Montparnasse, Jarry was well known for packing heat and pulling it to solve many of his every day problems, such as shooting in the air to silence noisy children, waving it around to make room on an overcrowded bus and drawing it on pedestrians when they blocked his way while riding his bicycle. Breton and the surrealists met him in 1905 at the Closerie des Lilas in Montparnasse and venerated him for his passions for poetry and gun slinging (passions he held in common with this gang of painters from the Place Ravignan).
The gun slinging Jarry drank heavy, especially absinthe, which he poetically refered to as herbe sainte. According to Rachilde, one of Jarry’s closest friends, he drank a daily helping of two litres of wine and three pernods in the morning, then had liqueurs and brandy at lunch, he had before dinner aperitifs, and before bed he would down a Pernod with a drop of ink.
His gun slinging antics in Bohemia are innumerable. One time he took a disliking to a patron of a café who was sitting with a woman. Jarry pulled his revolver and shot the mirror causing it to shatter, then turned to the woman and exclaimed: “Now that the ice is broken we can talk.” (This was a play on words: in French the word for both ice and glass is glace).
On another occasion a sculptor friend of Picasso’s annoyed Jarry by talking too much. Jarry ordered him to shut up and get lost, but the sculptor refused and continued to blab. Jarry pulled his piece and shot into the curtains. The sculptor decided it wise to comply and took an oath of silence.
On another occasion, Jarry was in the garden of an apartment he rented and decided to uncork champagne bottles by shooting off the corks. The owner of the building, which was in Corbeil, screamed: “Stop, before you shoot one of my children!” Jarry replied: “Don’t worry about that. If I hit one, we will make you another!”
Jarry died at age thirty-four of tubercular meningitis and left his
dearest earthly possession, his revolver, to Pablo Picasso. Jarry was one of
the biggest proponents of the philosophy that life must be lived in an
inseparable unity with art. Breton stated: “Starting with Jarry, much more
than Wilde, the distinction long deemed necessary between art and life was
blurred, until it was finally abolished in its very principle.”