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Alphonse Allais: Les Combles

June 27th, 2013 · 4 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 · Alphonse Allais · Literature

4 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


  • 4 name The Complete Works of Alphonse Allais (4-6) // Jun 30, 2014 at 1:22 am

    […] The first volume (1966, 440 pp.) contains an assortment of early writings.  First of all, Allais’s contributions to Le Tintamarre (Uproar) from 1879 to 1884, mostly short jokes and squibs.  He specialized in a couple of forms: the autographe, a one-liner ending in a pun on a well-known name, and the comble (acme), some of which I’ve translated here. […]

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