A Rave for Captain Cap!


Doug Skinner’s sublime translation of Alphonse Allais’s Captain Cap (Vol. I) has received a rave from the prestigious Leonardo Reviews in the UK. The complete text is now available online at this link

The review was written by Edith Doove (University of Plymouth) and here are a few excerpts:

“The translation into English of Captain Cap as the first in a series of three is both welcome and very timely. It is welcome since the Absurdist Texts & Documents Series by Black Scat Books project has filled an important void since the only other English venture into Allais’ writing, The World of Alphonse Allais, translated by Miles Kingston and published in hardback by Chatto & Windus in 1976, was made available in a paperback in 2008. But apart from long awaited, Captain Cap also comes at a timely moment because of the fact that its ironies are particularly opposite today as we witness global intellectual colonisation. The importance of not forgetting about the French context and its originality for a true understanding of this text was underlined by the former director of the National Library of France Jean-Noël Jeanneney when he launched a counter-attack against the American (U.S.A) imperialism by Google Books in which search results for European writers initially were mostly provided in English, (which resulted in the establishment of the Europeana Libraries – http://www.europeana-libraries.eu). The first book that Jeanneney showed in the course of recent documentary ‘Google and the World Brain’ (BBC, 2013) was Diderot’s Encyclopédie, which, without wanting to be overly chauvinistic, does put things in the right order. He dryly remarks (in French with English sub-titles) that on being confronted with the gift of a small thermo flask, brought to him by a Google Book VP in order to win him over, it was clear to him that they clearly did not understand who the director of the National Library of France actually was, or better, what he (commercially) represents. The documentary also identified similar misunderstandings or even better ‘misreadings’ by Google Books when, for example, the initial cataloguing of Walt Whitman’s famous book of poems ‘Leaves of Grass’ went under Gardening, and when it failed to recognize that Japanese books need to be scanned vertically rather than horizontally, turning any search result in complete nonsense. Such faux pas are hilarious after the event rather than the absurd way in which Allais’ texts actually points to – even anticipates – these kinds of dangers in an indirect or implicit way. So aside from the sheer pleasure of meeting an old friend, his observations have relevance now more than 100 years later.”

“This publication of Captain Cap is a little gem. It is wonderful that not-for profit publisher Black Scat Books, which seems to operate in true pataphysical tradition with former bookstore owner Norman Conquest (sic) as its ‘Président-Fondateur’ clearly respecting its French origins, has taken the initiative to bring Allais’ text to the attention of the English-speaking world.”

And on that note, let us remind you the edition is limited. You can order a copy here while they last.

Hooray for Captain Cap!

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