‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide – Andrew Hugill


'Pataphysics: A Useless Guide - Andrew Hugill

MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262527569

When a hopeful hypothesis bites the dust, when yet another self-contradiction is dragged into the light of logical analysis, when another friend turns out to be lost in La-La-Land, the honest skeptic may fleetingly wonder whether the efforts of doubt are worth it.

Are all those figmentalists, awash with make-believe, having more fun?


There they flounder: hexed, hoaxed and haunted, bedevilled, befuddled and bamboozled, fleeced, flummoxed and forlorn.

Beyond the reach and dreams of their depleted imaginations and gimcrack doctrines sizzles an Epicurean knees-up, the rum realm of ‘Pataphysics, lit up by literary fireworks and the flicker of absinthe aflame. Enjoy the craic of creativity and hyperfaluting nonsense, the time-shifting bewilderments of bicycles and Hancock’s artworks. Mingle with the poets and mathematicians of Oulipo and step warily by the dog-faced baboon.

Welcome, then, to a cult beyond all cults, to the very particular science of imaginary solutions, ‘pataphysics, that is to metaphysics what metaphysics is to science.

Hugill recounts the spectacular spirallings of Alfred Jarry and his successors in a reverse chronology stuffed with fascinations. Mentioned in passing is a ‘pataphysical prank that yanks the magic rug from under all that Brownian motion around The Holy Grail. ‘Pataphysics is, on one of its endless levels, a sort of philosophical shenanigan shot through with jet black humour that makes common or garden paranormalism give up the ghosts.

Hugill has provided an extremely good book of its kind, there being nothing like it.

Paul Taylor