IMAGINING SCIENCE

Once their faces were turned
outwards, men became
unable to see themselves,
and that is our great weakness.
No longer able to see ourselves,
we imagine ourselves.

René Daumal, The Head Inside Out

AL JARRY

“We located, by means of thousands upon thousands of photographs, a very old man now, named Al Jarry, who played a number of bit parts in pre-war films. From our lab we sent a team to Jarry’s home in East Harmony, Indiana. I’ll let one of the members of that team describe what he found.”
Silence, then a new voice, equally pedestrian. “The house on Lark Avenue in East Harmony is tottering and shabby and at the edge of town, where no one, except Al Jarry, still lives. Invited amiably in, and seated in the stale-smelling, moldering, kipple-filled living room, I scanned by telepathic means the blurred, debris-cluttered, and hazy mind of Al Jarry seated across from me.”
“Listen,” Roy Baty said, on the edge of his seat, poised as if to pounce.
“I found,” the technician continued, “that the old man did in actuality make a series of short fifteen minute video films, for an employer whom he never met. And, as we had theorized, the ‘rocks’ did consist of rubber-like plastic. The ‘blood’ shed was catsup, and ” – the technician chuckled – the only suffering Mr. Jarry underwent was having to go an entire day without a shot of whisky.”
“Al Jarry,” Buster Friendly said, his face returning to the screen. “Well, well. An old man who even in his prime never amounted to anything which either he or ourselves could respect. Al Jarry made a repetitious and dull film, a series of them in fact, for whom he knew not – and does not to this day. It has often been said by adherents of the experience of Mercerism that Wilbur Mercer is not a human being, that he is in fact an archetypal superior entity perhaps from another star. Well, in a sense this contention has proven correct. Wilbur Mercer is not human, does not in fact exist. The world in which he climbs is a cheap, Hollywood, commonplace sound stage which vanished into kipple years ago. And who, then, has spawned this hoax on the Sol System? Think about that for a time, folks.”

Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

JARRY IN GIDE

“Who is that?” asked Bernard.
“What!  Don’t you know the author of Ubu Roi?”
“Not possible!  That Jarry?  I took him for a servant.”
“Oh, all the same,” said Olivier, a little vexed, for he took a pride in his great men.  “Look at him more carefully.  Don’t you think he’s extraordinary?”
“He does all he can to appear so,” said Bernard, who only esteemed what was natural, and who nevertheless was full of consideration for Ubu.
Everything about Jarry, who was got up to look like the traditional circus clown, smacked of affection – his way of talking in particular; several of the Argonauts did their utmost to imitate it, snapping out their syllables, inventing odd words, and oddly mangling others; but it was only Jarry who could succeed in producing that toneless voice of his – a voice without warmth or intonation, or accents or emphasis.
“When one knows him, he is charming, really,” went on Olivier.
“I prefer not to know him.  He looks ferocious.”
“Oh, that’s just the way he has.  Passavant thinks that in reality he is the kindest of creatures.  But he has drunk a terrible lot tonight; and not a drop of water, you may be sure – nor even of wine; nothing but absinthe and spirits.  Passavant’s afraid he may do something eccentric.”

André Gide, The Counterfeiters.