Les Jours et Les Nuits, 1897
Thursday, April 27th 2023
by Alfred Jarry
Alfred Jarry (French, 1873-1917)
«Les Jours et les Nuits» (“Days and Nights”), [Paris], 1897
Autograph manuscript, signed twice and dated “avril 1897” (April 1897).
In-8 (202 x 156mm).
Collation: 259 autographic pages, numbered 257, in black ink.
Original binding, probably done for Victor Lemasle. Black shagreen spine, raised bands, front and back boards covered with marbled paper. (Slightly worn locks)
- Victor Lemasle (1876-1932, autograph seller and publisher, among many others, of Alfred Jarry’s last book, Albert Samain (Souvenirs), in 1907)
- Louis Lormel (1869-1922), art dealer.
Exhibition of this manuscript:
- "ExpoJarrysition", Galerie Jean Loize, Paris (18 palotin - 8 gidouille 80), May 7 to June 20, 1953
- "Alfred Jarry 1873-1917", Graphisches Kabinett, Kunsthaus Zürich, December 14, 1984 to March 10, 1985.
- Patrick Besnier, Alfred Jarry, Paris, 2005, pp. 304 et al.
- Maurice Saillet, Sur la route de Narcisse, Paris, 1974
- Karl Pollin, Alfred Jarry: l’expérimentation du singulier, Amsterdam, New York, 2013
- Henry-Alexander Grubbs, « L'Influence d'Isidore Ducasse sur les débuts littéraires d'Alfred Jarry » in Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France, 42nd year, #3 (1935), pp. 437-440.
Webography: manuscripts by Jarry known to date: http://alfredjarry.fr/amisjarry/fichiers_ea/etoile_absinthe_132_133.pdf
THE COMPLETE AUTOGRAPHIC MANUSCRIPT OF ONE OF ALFRED JARRY’S MOST BEAUTIFUL TEXTSLes Jours et les Nuits were published by Mercure de France Editions shortly after Ubu roi, in the middle of the Dreyfus Affair (Emile Zola’s “J’accuse” was published in the Jan. 13, 1897 issue of newspaper L’Aurore). According to Maurice Saillet, “Alfred Jarry’s fanatics secretly favor “Les Jours et les nuits”, which is akin to “a door left slightly ajar on the mystery of its author” (Sur la route de Narcisse). In what is considered as Jarry’s most serious novel due its onirism, dreams and reality alternate like days and nights. Stéphane Mallarmé was the first one to grasp its quality:
“[IN THIS NOVEL] EVERYTHING IS SEAMLESSLY TRANSPOSED INTO DREAMS”
STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ, SEPTEMBER 1897.
THIS MANUSCRIPT USED TO BELONG TO LOUIS LORMEL, ALFRED JARRY’S LONG TIME FRIEND AND CHAMPION OF THE AVANT-GARDE
"My dear Jarry, My friend Schwob and I spoke so often last summer about “Les Jours et les Nuits” that I neglected to thank its author. I felt utterly surprised upon reading such wonderful and precise imagery: its tones are composed, lively and fresh, then everything is seamlessly transposed into dreams. The geometry of those straight and bent sentences is always clear and builds a definitive or strict literary language that delighted me" (in a letter dated September 1897).
The three dozen or so fragments of manuscripts by Alfred Jarry known to date are held in the collections of four institutions: the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, the Laval Public Library et the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. For the most part, these are loose sheets, articles, projects by Alfred Jarry comprised of a mere few pages. Privately owned complete manuscripts by Alfred Jarry are scarce. He reportedly burnt the manuscript of Ubu roi in front of Paul Fort after it was published in his magazine. Only three pages of Ubu’s “Addition to the final scene” are held in the Laval Public Library. Alfred Jarry’s last manuscript, 29 pages of Ubu intime, were auctioned for € 53,340 (buyer’s premium included) on June 1st, 2016 (# 80).
It must be noted that two important literary manuscripts are also kept in public institutions:
1. Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll (in the Tristan Tzara Collection at Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, ref. TZR Sup 5, 83 sheets) preempted during the famous Tzara auction held on March 4, 1989 (Drouot, Guy Loudmer, # 243).
2. A manuscript of Messaline (Bibliothèque nationale de France, ref. NAF 28845, 217 pages).
This manuscript of Les Jours et les nuits was presented and described in issue # 10 of Cahiers du collège de Pataphysique, # 405 (1953):
“This manuscript was prepared for printing by Jarry himself: it bears precise handwritten directions about the police that should be used… Generally speaking, the handwriting is not as consistent, or to put it bluntly, not as neat as in other manuscripts”.
This manuscript is undoubtedly the one that was handed to the printer: its first page is composed as a book page, with the editor’s address in the footer, and the pages of the manuscript have been numbered using a blue pencil, which is usual with Jarry. According to Les Cahiers du collège de Pataphysique, this manuscript used to belong to “Louis Libaude, aka Louis Lormel, former director of L’Art littéraire.”
Louis Lormel, pen name of Louis-Charles Libaude (1869-1922), played a crucial part in Alfred Jarry’s training (1873-1907) and the publication of his works. After graduating from high school in July 1891, Alfred Jarry continued his secondary studies at Lycée Henry IV in Paris. He consecutively met Léon-Paul Fargue and Louis Lormel, who founded L’Art littéraire in October 1892. At the end of 1893, Jarry and Fargue joined Lormel on the editorial board of his periodical. In 1894, Jarry published thirteen articles in L’Art littéraire in the span of a few months, including César Antechrist which would later be included in his first book, Les Minutes de sable mémorial (1894). It also seems likely that Louis Lormel handed Jarry the works of Lautréamont, who was virtually unknown at the time.
Later on, Louis Lormel wrote in Émile Bernard’s magazine La Rénovation esthétique. He went on to become auctioneer and was one of Picasso’s first art dealers.
Jean-Baptiste de Proyart
translated by Sabine Vincenot