Evergreen Review

Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, we have become victims of our own knowledge—principally of our scientific and technological knowledge. In ’Pataphysics resides our only defense against ourselves. . . . Outwardly one may conform meticulously to the . . . conventions of civilized life, but inwardly one watches this conformity with the care and enjoyment of a painter choosing his colors. . . . ’Pataphysics, then, is an inner attitude, a discipline, a science, and an art, which allows each man to live his life as an exception, proving no law but his own.
—Simon Watson Taylor, “Superliminal Note,” 1960

In 1960, English-speaking members of the Collège de ’Pataphysique presented pataphysics to a broad audience for the first time in Evergreen Review. The editors pointed to the subject’s timeliness: the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, publicized the previous year, had posited that every outcome of an event is realized in divergent parallel universes. Readers have continued to sift through Jarry’s enigmatic writings in order to define pataphysics; in recent decades, however, figures in the arts and sciences have devoted more energy to creating works based on their individual interpretations. Several central ideas persist: universal equivalence, supplementary realities, and a science that is governed by particularities and exceptions—to which some have added the axiom that to understand pataphysics is to fail to understand pataphysics. The London Institute of Pataphysics continues to elaborate upon Jarry and his constellation as a pataphysical artist and thinker of the past, present, and future.

Roger Shattuck (1923–2005) and Simon Watson Taylor (1923–2005), eds. “What is ’Pataphysics? [’Pataphysics Is the Only Science].” Cover after a design by Juan Esteban Fassio (1924–1980). Special issue, Evergreen Review 4, no. 13 (1960). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197062. © 1960 by Evergreen Review. Used by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.