The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Alphonse Allais: Les Combles

June 27th, 2013 · 3 Comments

At the beginning of his literary career, Alphonse Allais contributed squibs, jokes, and one-liners to various small Parisian papers.  He followed already established formulas: the fable-express (a brief fable with a punning moral), the autograph (a line ending with a pun on someone’s name).  He became particularly identified with the comble, the “acme.”  He didn’t invent the form, but quickly made it his own.  Here are a few examples, culled from Le Tintamarre, 1877-1879.

The acme of caution: To walk on your hands, so tiles won’t fall on your head.

The acme of thrift: When in the park, to gather grass for your rabbits.

The acme of cynicism: To kill a shopkeeper at night, and then post on the door: closed because of death.

The acme of impudence: To crush a gentleman’s hat with your fist, and then ask if he’s looking for trouble.

The acme of politeness: To sit on your ass, and beg its pardon.

The acme of consideration: To make a hole in the wall at night, so you can return home without waking the concierge.

The acme of skill: To learn how to read time on a barometer.

The acme of resemblance: To be able to shave before your portrait.

The acme of affectation: To stay at home, and play the piano every hour and half hour, so your neighbors will think you have a musical clock.

The acme of distraction: To lose your glasses, and then put them on to look for them.

The acme of courtesy: To put fallen leaves back on the tree.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: 'pataphysics · Literature

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Derek // Jun 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Love these!

  • 2 Doug // Jun 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    They’re tasty, aren’t they?

  • 3 Mamie // Jun 30, 2013 at 11:39 pm


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