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Portrait of Jacques Rigaut by Man Ray

Portrait of Jacques Rigaut by Man Ray

In an earlier post, I presented the synopsis of my novel in progress, Housebreaking the Muse. As noted, the novel is haunted by the figure of Jacques Rigaut, the French Dadaist, gigolo, addict, and suicide. Though I’d long had an interest in the Dadas, I didn’t hear the name “Jacques Rigaut” until I stumbled upon it in the following passage on page 233 of the 1990 Penguin Books edition of Paul Auster’s novel, Moon Palace:


I can’t remember all the pieces I worked on, but at least several of them come back to me when I strain hard enough: a meditation on money, for example, and another one on clothes; an essay on orphans and a somewhat longer piece on suicide, which was largely a discussion of Jacques Rigaut, a minor French Dadaist who declared at the age of nineteen that he was giving himself ten more years to live, and then, when he turned twenty-nine, held good to his word and shot himself on the appointed day.

In the margin, I wrote, “If true, a story?” I soon began researching Rigaut and, over time, began to piece together the biographical details of his life. Part of my research involved attempting a translation of the posthumous collection of his works, Écrits, published by Gallimard in 1970. I also wrote the story, “Jacques Rigaut’s Happiest Birthday – A Dada Bedtime Story” which has served as a seed for the novel. The following is my translation of the fragment “Job Application” which appears in the “Posthumous Texts” section of Écrits.

Job Application
by Jacques Rigaut

There are some men who make money, others neurasthenia, others babies. There are those who try to be witty. There are those who make love, those who show pity.

For some time I’ve been looking to do something! There is nothing to make: there is nothing to do.

The News in Brief

Continuing its ravages, the syllogism claimed 37 new victims yesterday in the city of Paris alone.

Municipal improvidence threatens the city with being, before long, deprived of private lighting. The insomnia of the trees on our boulevards since the advent of street-lamps, three plane trees, giving in to a justifiable anger, allowed themselves to keel over yesterday on the street-lamps, which they crushed.

Yesterday, in the Palais-Royal garden, a passer by found the corpse of Dada. It was assumed a suicide (because the poor soul had threatened since birth to put an end to its days) when André Breton made a complete confession.

If You’re Interested

Who is not Julien Sorel? ……….Stendhal.
Who is not Nietzsche? …………Nietzsche.
Who is not Juliet? ……………….Shakespeare.
Who is not M. Teste? …………..Valéry.
Who is not Lafcadio? …………..Gide.
Who is not a Free Man? ……….Barrès.

And the rest …

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