Jarry’s exposure to the writings of Marcel Schwob, Stéphane Mallarmé, and the visionary Comte de Lautréamont is evident in his early writing. An assertion Schwob made that “art stands in opposition to general ideas, describes only the individual, desires only the unique. It does not classify; it declassifies” inflected Jarry’s aesthetic in every medium. Other ideas associated with the Symbolist movement figure in the introduction to his first book: he aimed to “suggest” rather than to “define” and to “create in the highway of sentences an intersection of all the words.” Other prefatory remarks were defiantly prophetic: “Every meaning that the reader will find has been foreseen, and he will not find them all.” Scholars have yet to agree on the identity of the spiral-bodied figure in this woodcut.
Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Les minutes de sable mémorial (Paris: Mercure de France, 1894). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197017.