Francisque Sarcey was Paris’s most celebrated critic in the 1890s, and one of its most conservative. He famously panned Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi as “a filthy fraud that deserves nothing but the silence of contempt,” and praised light, commercial fare. Not surprisingly, he became an object of derision for young poets and artists. Nobody took the ridicule further than Alphonse Allais, who appropriated Sarcey’s byline for a series of articles in the Bohemian paper Le Chat Noir. Allais’s Sarcey was an obese buffoon who boasted about his appetite, complained about his constipation and impotence, and championed mediocrity in the arts: a memorable comic character who often overshadowed the original.
Doug Skinner has selected, translated, and annotated this famous journalistic prank. It’s now available from Black Scat Books or Amazon.