TURDS IN PROGRESS

I have been working my arse off (pardon the expression) designing an expanded edition of Merde à La Belle Époque, translated by the venerable Doug Skinner, and featuring scatological works by Alphonse Allais, George Auriol, Georges Courteline, Charles Cros, J. Eschbach, Edmond Haraucourt, Vincent Hyspa, Jules Jouy, Maurice Mac-Nab, Armand Masson, Erik Satie, and other French luminaries yet to be named. 

Black Scat’s original edition was published in 2014 as volume 24 in the Absurdist Texts & Documents series — a little 48-paged (spineless) chapbook, limited to only 310 copies. 

At the time, we hailed it as our “#2 Bestseller,” assuming it would remain the last turd on the subject. But nonot by a long shot! Indeed, more gems lay hidden below the surface, just waiting to be fished out of the tank by the skilled hands of Monsieur Skinner.

One of many of our new edition’s highlights is Le Journal des Merdeux (The Little Shits’ Journal)—text by Jules Jouy & cartoons by J. Eschbach. This sublime, single-sided broadside surfaced in 1882 and was immediately banned by the French censors. Alas, one can only imagine what precious merde might have been excreted had subsequent issues appeared. 😢

This very rare Merdeux has never been translated, so it is fitting Black Scat should be the one to uncork it. (Here, take a sniff.) The translation itself involves arduous work—especially when bringing French puns to life with equivalent wordplay in English. One example from the Journal: there’s a joke about pilgrims going to Lourdes, because it’s good luck to step in “la grotte” (a pun for “la crotte”). Skinner made it good luck to step in dogma, keeping both the scatological superstition and the anti-clericalism. A rather brilliant twist.  

Meanwhile, capturing the essence—if not the aroma—of the broadside’s design was a Herculean task. It required many days & nights of painstaking efforts in the WC, matching typography, kerning, cursing (“merde!”), and cleaning up all 28 illustrations which, as you can see from the reproduction below, were stained & degraded by the ravages of time. 

In fact, one of J. Eschbach’s pictures was so delightful I decided to reproduce it on the cover of the forthcoming edition. 

In the book, the single-sheet Little Shits’ Journal runs 9-pages with two columns each. Of course we’d have to hire an extraterrestrial sorcerer to fit the broadside’s 6-columns onto a page only 5.06 inches wide.

The bottom line: working on MERDE is a dirty job, but we were born to doo-doo it.

We hope you’ll consider adding the expanded edition to your collection when it, uh, comes out.

Norman Conquest

FRENCH HUMOR + WORDPLAY

Alphonse Allais (1854-1905) was France’s greatest humorist. His elegance, scientific curiosity, preoccupation with language and logic, wordplay and flashes of cruelty inspired Alfred Jarry, as well as succeeding generations of Surrealists, Pataphysicians, and Oulipians. THE SQUADRON’S UMBRELLA collects 39 of Allais’s funniest stories — many originally published in the legendary paper LE CHAT NOIR, written for the Bohemians of Montmartre. Included are such classic pranks on the reader as “The Templars” (in which the plot becomes secondary to remembering the hero’s name) and “Like the Others” (in which a lover’s attempts to emulate his rivals lead to fatal but inevitable results.) These tales have amused and inspired generations, and now English readers can enjoy the master absurdist at his best. As the author promises, this book contains no umbrella and the subject of squadrons is “not even broached.”

This sublime translation by Doug Skinner is one of our most popular titles.

About the Author
ALPHONSE ALLAIS (1854 – 1905) began his career in Paris during the Belle Epoque. He was particularly active at the legendary cabaret Le Chat Noir, where he wrote for and edited the weekly paper. He quickly became known for his deadpan wit and inexhaustible imagination. Among other things, he also exhibited some of the first monochromatic pictures (such as his all-white “First Communion of Chlorotic Girls in the Snow” in 1883) and composed the first silent piece of music: “Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man” (1884). Throughout most of his life, he contributed columns several times a week to LE JOURNAL and LE SOURIRE. These pieces were collected into twelve volumes, which he called his “Anthumous Works,” between 1892 and 1902. He also published a collection of his monochromes, ALBUM PRIMO-AVRILESQUE, in 1897, and a novel, L’AFFAIRE BLAIREAU, in 1899, as well as a few plays. His later years were troubled by debt, a bad marriage, and heavy drinking; he died at 59. He was a crucial influence on Alfred Jarry, as well as on the Surrealists: Breton included him in his ANTHOLOGY OF BLACK HUMOR, and Duchamp was reading him on the day he died. Allais’s fascination with wordplay, puns, and holorhymes led Oulipo to call him an “anticipatory plagiarist”; the Pataphysical College dubbed him their “Patacessor.” His books have remained in print in France, and the Académie Alphonse Allais has awarded a literary prize in his honor since 1954.

Happy May Day, Alphonse Allais!

As the first publisher to bring many books by France’s greatest humorist to America — in sublime translations by Doug Skinner — we are happy to share the exceedingly rare photo below. It was recently unveiled by the Musée Alphonse Allais in Honfleur (Allais’s birthplace) and donated by Nicole et Xavier Artus. It shows Alphonse with his wife, Marguerite, and daughter, Paulette, at “La Ferme de la grande cour” (circa 1896). Of the location, Allais wrote: “I go there often, to this rustic inn, half farm, half hotel; I go there to drink a glass of fresh cider, under the apple trees and even have a bite to eat when the heart tells me…”

Below, we have taken the liberty of colorizing the photograph and improving its exposure. We think it brings the image to life.

Happy May Day to Allais and to all our visitors. Help us celebrate by ordering one of the master’s collections here.

Shocking and Scandalous!

THIS POST WAS UPDATED 4.30.22

Black Scat author Caroline Crépiat poses with her edition of LE CHAT NOIR EXPOSED at the recent exposition of Incohérents art at the l’Olympia in Paris. A true funhouse of exhibits and quite a scandal still, just as the early exposition in 1893 shocked the city. The Incoherents were irrational, satirical, iconoclastic and absurdist, but were they artists asked the public? “Mais oui,” exclaimed Jules Lévy, the founder of the Incoherent Art movement, “but these artists don’t know how to draw.” (haha)

Imagine the gasps of attendees when they spied Alphonse Allais‘s green cab curtain, titled Des souteneurs, encore dans la force de l’âge et le ventre dans l’herbe, boivent de l’absinthe (Pimps still in the prime of life and lying face down in the grass drink absinthe)—one of the earliest monochromes in the history of art!—shocking indeed.

Most of the original Incoherent’s artworks & ephemera did not survive, and could only be seen in 19th century illustrations. But then, in 2021, came a remarkable discovery in France — a large trunk with 17 examples of art by Incoherents, including Allais’s monochrome.

But wait…were these artworks real, or fakes and forgeries? And why was the show limited to only 4 hours of viewing?? (What next? A drive-thru exhibition?)

Experts, such as our friend, artist and critic, Corinne Taunay, have been investigating and discovered that several items (including Allais’s curtain!) aren’t authentic. Mon dieu! — another scandal rocks the Parisienne artworld! This brazen scam appears designed to reap enormous profit (10 million euros, anyone?) off the memory of dead avant-garde rebels.

Meanwhile, here in America where everything is branded “fake” today, we remain respectfully silent on the controversy. However, what we can guarantee is the authenticity of Ms. Crépiat’s LE CHAT NOIR EXPOSED. Indeed, her book is the real deal — translated from the French by the great Doug Skinner — an extraordinary work of scholarship that ‘exposes’ the liveliest fin-de-siècle bohemian cabaret and journal in Paris.

CLICK HERE and see for yourself.

AN ‘ANTHUMOUS’ WORK BY ALPHONSE ALLAIS

The master absurdist is back in LOVES, DELIGHTS, & ORGANS (Amours, délices et orgues). This madcap collection of stories, fables, hoaxes and jokes is pataphysical fun for the literate layabout. This first English translation features 47 sublime textual specimens — PLUS six additional stories, a rousing introduction, and enlightening notes on the translation by Allaisian scholar Doug Skinner. If you’ve yet to discover the bizarre world of Alphonse Allais, you’re in for a treat.

“Allais comes across as a very modern writer, and his work as an experimental enterprise which is exemplary in many ways… it is also quite possible to invoke such writers as Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, and Jorge Luis Borges.”  Jean-Marie Defays


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

   Alphonse Allais was born in the Northern port town of Honfleur, in Calvados, on October 20, 1854. He was, therefore, born in the same town as Erik Satie, and on the same day as Arthur Rimbaud. His father was a pharmacist, and sent young Alphonse to Paris to learn the family trade. Young Alphonse mostly cut his classes, and steeped himself in the absinthe-soaked delights of bohemian Montmartre.

   He joined the hard-drinking literary coterie the Hydropathes, accompanied the celebrated prankster Sapeck (Eugène Bataille) on his misadventures, submitted monochromatic pictures to the proto-Dada exhibitions of the Incohérents, and wrote squibs for various ephemeral papers. He became adept, in both word and deed, at the unique Parisian discipline of fumisme: a heady mix of hoaxing, provocation, and iconoclasm, all delivered with deadpan aplomb. Although he’d abandoned chemistry, his scientific credentials gave him a perspective (and persona) that set him apart from the more febrile poets around him. He was often likened to an English schoolmaster, with a placid demeanor that made his wild ideas all the more startling. [from the introduction by Doug Skinner]

Notes from the editorial office

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED (19 April 2022)
We recently updated two of our New Urge titles with new cover designs by N. Conquest. These handsome paperback editions are available at the links below.

Peculiar Charms

Hidden Gems: The Best of The Pearl


A LIBERTINE CHAPBOOK ATOP THE MENU

A second edition of Denis Diderot‘s From Their Lips to His Ear (Pocket Erotica #6) is also available. It features a delicious illustration on the flyleaf. Diderot, of course, was the highly celebrated 18th century French philosopher & editor of the groundbreaking Encyclopédie. In 1748, in need of money, he wrote this scandalous and satiric libertine allegory — Les Bijoux Indiscrets —whose hero, a sultan, is in possession of a magic ring. This exquisite little edition has been edited by Lawrence Hamilton.

CLICK HERE to order the second edition.


If you missed the recent release of two titles by the great Pierre Louÿs, be sure to check out Lips of Bilitis and A Handbook of Manners for the Good Girls of France

“Pierre Louÿs is one of the great and glorious erotomaniacs of the end of the nineteenth century.”
— André Pierre de Mandiargues

In 2016 we published The New Pleasure & other stories by Louÿs, which is currently out of print. Below, the cover (at left), and (at right) a provocative design which never appeared.

Meanwhile, the first English translation of Alphonse Allais‘s Loves, Delights, & Organs (translated from the French by Doug Skinner) is now available. This is the thirteenth volume in our unrivaled Alphonse Allais Collection.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…. the “funhouse” issue of BLACK SCAT REVIEW has rolled into town.

Grab it HERE.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN . . .

A special reprint edition of BLACK SCAT REVIEW #1 is now available.

Originally published in 2012, the issue sold out quickly and has long been out of print. It features John Crombie’s translation of “Like Mother” by Alphonse Allais; a hilarious accusatory text by the legendary Canadian absurdist Crad Kilodney; collage art from the UK by Michael Leigh; Elizabeth Archer’s revealing interview with British humorist Samantha Memi; experimental comic art by Florence Bocherel; a rare comic drama by Pierre Henri Cami translated by Doug Skinner; bizarre poems from Portugal’s Pedro Carolino; and astounding short fiction by Samantha Memi, Yuriy Tarnawsky and Tom Whalen. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The original cover photograph by S. N. Jacobson has been censored to allow its display on Amazon.)

BLACK SCAT REVIEW (Number One)
edited by Norman Conquest
paperback; illustrated; full color;
ISBN 979-8450666396

ALLAIS’S CABARET — HOORAY!

It’s a rare event when we publish a work of nonfiction, but this book is dear to our hard-hearted heart. This extraordinary work of scholarship exposes the liveliest fin-de-siècle bohemian cabaret and journal in Paris.

Le Chat Noir was a playground for painters, writers, poets, pranksters, and musicians, all gleefully demolishing the standards of art and good taste. Caroline Crépiat examines such eccentric personalities as Paul Verlaine, Alphonse Allais, Marie Krysinska, Maurice Mac-Nab, and Charles Cros, and analyzes their treatment of money, women, translation, humor, sex, disease, and scatology, with generous samplings of the original texts. A masterful look at a rich and colorful legend of the avant-garde!

Le Chat Noir Exposed
Caroline Crépiat
Translated by Doug Skinner
trade paper, 182 pp.,
Illustrated; $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-7356159-6-7

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Crépiat‘s main area of research focuses on French fin-de-siècle periodicals, humor, and language. Her articles have been published widely in France. She co-edited Masks, bodies, languages — Figures in contemporary erotic poetry (Classiques Garnier Editions: 2017). She lives in Dijon with two chats noirs.

Scat has nine lives!

July 4th marks our 9th year of publishing. To celebrate the occasion we’ve released a special deluxe hardcover edition of our very first title, ALPHONSE ALLAIS’S MASKS — adapted and illustrated by Norman Conquest, with an introduction and notes on the text by Allaisian scholar Doug Skinner.

This revised, expanded edition features three additional chapters and over 60 color illustrations.

Join the celebration and order your copy of this collectable edition here.

ALPHONSE ALLAIS’S MASKS
Adapted & Illustrated
by Norman Conquest
With a Introduction & Notes on the Text
by Doug Skinner

DELUXE SPECIAL EDITION
hardcover; 6×9 inches; 82 pp., illustrated
ISBN 13 978-1-7357646-6-5 / $26


Yum-yum!
Another satisfied customer.