Originally released in a limited edition, this vastly expanded version of Black Scat’s Merde à La Belle Époque brings gastric laughter to all of America. This hilarious scatological anthology features verses, stories, songs, and playlets by some of Paris’s most inventive and eccentric comic writers of the period. It includes the exceedingly rare Le Journal des Merdeux — an illustrated broadside devoted entirely to merde. Indeed, upon its publication in 1882, The Little Shits’ Journal was seized by the police and banned. Merde!
This lovely, deodorized paperback edition, designed by Norman Conquest, has been exquisitely compiled, deftly translated, and introduced by Doug Skinner, and includes his erudite and witty notes on the texts.
Return to those raucous years of La Belle Époque when French “shiterature” scandalized Paris.
It’s back to cool with the great French monologist, humorist, poet, and inventor—in a trenchant translation by Doug Skinner.
***FIRST PUBLICATION IN ENGLISH!***
Born in1842, Charles Cros was one of the most brilliant minds of his generation, equally adept at poetry, fiction, and scientific inquiry. He wrote smutty verses with Verlaine, synthesized gems with Alphonse Allais, contributed wild prose fantasies to Le Chat Noir, and experimented with color photography and sound recording, only to die young, poor, and alcoholic. Not incidentally, he also invented the comic monologue for the actor Coquelin Cadet. In these strikingly spontaneous and modern sketches, he introduces a gallery of fools and obsessives—The Clean Man, The Fencing Master, The Capitalist, The Friend of the Family—all nattering away, assaulting the audience with trivia, and blithely unaware of their own failings.
This edition collects all 22 of Cros’s monologues—masterfully translated & introduced by Doug Skinner—and includes performance notes by Coquelin, plus two biographical essays by his friend and colleague Alphonse Allais.
“The sheer playfulness of certain fanciful parts of Cros’s work must not let us forget that in the center of some of his finest poems, a revolver is aimed at us.”—André Breton
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, Léon Bloy, Georges Courteline, Charles Cros, J. Eschbach, Edmond Haraucourt, Vincent Hyspa, Alfred Jarry, Jules Jouy, Maurice Mac-Nab, Armand Masson, Arthur Rimbaud, Rodolphe Salis, Erik Satie, Henry Somm, & Émile Zola.
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 no—not 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.
One of J. Eschbach’s drawings seemed ideal for 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 was a dirty job, but we were born to doo it.
We hope you’ll consider adding the expanded edition to your collection as soon as it, uh, comes out.
Nominata has gone missing, and her old friend Antonima is looking for her. Can the seven regulars in the Taproom help? Why are there strange lights and noises in the abandoned observatory? And what does the number 5040 have to do with all this?
Doug Skinner describes his novel as “an interactive verbal toy,” and Black Scat urges caution when handling it. On the surface, the text is playful, comic, and wayward. Further immersion, however, reveals elaborate constraints, cross references, and parallels, all creating an artificial world in which everything is a reflection of everything else, including itself. All that and slapstick too!
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.
The lovely “Lewd, Nude & Rude” issue of BLACK SCAT REVIEW has stormed the beach!
As you’ve come to expect, the issue is filled with Sublime Art & Literature — innovative fiction, eye-popping graphics, works in translation, and spicy absurdities. Featuring 131 pages packed with an international cast of contributors: Mark Axelrod; Thomas Barrett; Sebastian Bennett; Giacomo Girolamo Casanova; Norman Conquest; R J Dent; Dawn Avril Fitzroy; Eckhard Gerdes; Alexander Krivitskiy; Amy Kurman; Hélène Lavelle; Marc Levy; Olchar E. Lindsann; Clément Marot; Lilianne Milgrom; Alison Miller; T. Motley; Angelo Pastormerlo; GerardSarnat; Doug Skinner; Valéry Soers; Jean Donneau de Visé; Gregory Wallace; Tom Whalen; and David Williams.
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.
Alfred Jarry spent his brief and turbulent life experimenting with genres of fiction. In his last few years, he created a new fictional form: the absurdist speculative essay. R J Dent’s new English translation of Speculations contains 68 of Jarry’s essays, originally printed between 1901 and 1904 as a series, ‘Spéculations’, in the French journal Le Revue Blanche.
In Jarry’s darkly comic collection of surrealist and satirical prose pieces, the renowned author deploys his characteristic satirical eye and dark humor to devastating effect. These essays range in tone from the wildly comic to the deeply tragic and cover a diversity of subjects, ranging from French Trees to Cannibalism. For Jarry, nothing is sacred; everything is worthy material for his surreal satire; the Passion is presented as a sporting event; buses are the prey of big game hunters, and even the Queen is licked from behind.
A series of sly investigations into fin de siècle France that reads like a beautiful & bloody handful of paper cuts, splintered essays that turn authority on its head in sharp bursts of wicked logic, R J Dent elegantly capturing Jarry’s iconoclastic spirit, his scandalous heart. —Matthew Kinlin
SPECULATIONS Alfred Jarry Translated by R J Dent Paper; 5.06 x 7.81 inches; 235 pp., $15.95 ISBN 13 979-8-9859996-1-7
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]
Step right up! The “Funhouse” issue is now available. It walks, it talks, it crawls on its belly like a reptile . . .
Featuring astounding art and fiction by Mark Axelrod; Tom Barrett; David Berger; Norman Conquest; R J Dent; Muriel Falak; Eckhard Gerdes; Richard Gessner; Alfred Jarry; Richard Kostelanetz; Amy Kurman; Mantis; Kate Meyer-Currey; Bob McNeil; Lillianne Milgrom; Lance Olsen; Paul Rosheim; Doug Skinner; Nile Southern; and Jim Yoakum.