, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 532–540 | Cite as

René Daumal and the pataphysics of liberation

  • Phil Powrie


Daumal's use of pataphysics is not, I would contend, quite as cosmetic as Torma suggests. Certainly it fulfils the same function as negation, and therefore might appear to be redundant. But the following passage stresses just how important the concept of humour is in Daumal's soteriology:

En usant toujours de tels mots que négation, plus exacts peut-être en leurs sens originels, je craindrais de laisser entendre cette opération comme un vain simulacre abstrait du discours, un vain schème vocal. Et, pour tâcher que tu ne retombes dans le sommeil de ton ‘savoir’ philosophique, je dirai donc plutôt, quand je parle bien du doute méthodique, sarcasme ou dérision méthodique (T 41; Daumal's emphasis).

Despite its heavily idealist overtones, therefore, Daumal's method relies far more on the provocation of the rational mind, than it does on the Hegelian Geist, the hypothesis of absolute consciousness.

Humour is not just a Bergsonian social corrective for Daumal, a convenient critical tool with which to excoriate the absurdities of science, as it had been for Jarry in Gestes et opinions du docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien.27 Nor is it just a protection against a hostile world, as Breton claims, following Freud.28 For Daumal, it is certainly the former, and could well be the latter; but it is more. It is a soteriological tool of self-criticism and humility, which, like acid, gnaws away at self-importance and self-satisfaction in the search for an authentic self untrammelled by the absurdity of bourgeois individualism. I shall leave the final word to Daumal, whose apparently gnomic Clavicule 3 from Le Contre-Ciel aptly summarizes in its playfulness the joyous rejection of the absurdity of the individual self:

Recule encore derrière toi-même ris:

Le Non est prononcé sur ton rire.

Le Rire est prononcé sur ton NON.

Renie ton Nom, ris de ton NON (CC 26).


Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic Final Word Critical Tool Rational Mind 
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Copyright information

© Wolters-Noordhoff 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phil Powrie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon TyneUK

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