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Pataphysical Calendar


History of the Pataphysical Calendar

The Pataphysical Calendar begins as a French student joke first perpetrated by Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), author of the infamous Ubu-Roi (King Ooboo), a mad drama whose first word Merdre! (Pschitt!) started a 15 minute riot at its opening in 1896. (Everybody who was anybody in literature was in the audience, even William Butler Yeats, who was clueless.) Jarry (zha-REE) went on to invent the imaginary discipline of ‘Pataphysics (from an imaginary Greek word Hypataphysics, higher than physics, in analogy to Metaphysics). The joke has been perpetrated by generations of French students and intellectuals, most of whom write like Jacques Derrida only worse. Jarry went on to invent the Pataphysical Calendar. He died young, of tuberculous meningitis. The best account of him in English is in Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant Garde in France, 1885 to World War I. New York: Vintage, 1968 (still in print in 2004).

How the Pataphysical Calendar works

The Pataphysical Calendar is a rearrangement of the Gregorian year calendar. The Pataphysical Era begins on September 8th, 1873, Jarry’s birthday, and that date begins the Pataphysical year. The year is divided into thirteen months of 28 or 29 days each. Each day has a name (like a traditional French calendar of saints), always obscure and usually indecent. Each month begins with a Sunday, and has a Friday the 13th. Of course, the only way to do this is to intercalate days into the week, so that days of the Pataphysical week do NOT correspond to the days of the week in the Gregorian calendar. Since 13 x 28 is 364, there must be an intercalary day (two in a leap year) which is NOT a day of the Pataphysical week.

Each month has a 29th day, called a Hunyadi (ün-ya-DEE) – the name of a Hungarian patriot or a Hungarian laxative, depending on who you read. The Hunyadis are IMAGINARY days, with one exception (two in leap years). The non-imaginary Hunyadis are called “Hunyadi gras”, Fat Hunyadi, like Mardi Gras I guess. The 29th of the month of Gidouille (= 13 July) is the annual intercalary day, with leap year day being the 29th of the month of Gueueles (= 23 February).

Le Collège de ‘Pataphysique
The calendar is allegedly controlled by the Pataphysical College, which issues occasional revisions (perhaps most recently in 1971), replacing some saints’ days with commemorations of more recent contributors to the pataphysical cause. Thus Isaac Asimov is remembered on 12 Pédale (=6 March) as “Saint Hari Seldon, psychohistorien galactique”.


Represented by the pataphysical spiral (la Gidouille [zhee-DWEE]), the Pataphysical College has recently made the decision to emerge from 25 years of obscurity.