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Allais, Alphonse

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1854-1905) French journalist and author, mostly of humorous pieces; his newspaper column, La Vie Drôle ["The Funny Life"] contained many skits and spoofs and other pieces, often fantastical. The various tales about Captain Cap appeared in this column and in other similar venues. Cap is based on a real person – Albert Caperon (1864-1898), a much-travelled adventurer and man about town – and Allais retired Captain Cap tales after Caperon's death, though he used old stories, and reassembled some earlier material, in putting together Le Captain Cap, ses aventures, ses idées, ses breuvages (coll 1902; trans Doug Skinner as Captain Cap: His Adventures, His Ideas, His Drinks 2013; trans Brian Stableford as The Adventures of Captain Cap 2013), both translations containing additional material. In the tales devoted to him, which often spoof Club Story conventions, Cap recounts or Allais reports his adventures in a manner sometimes evocative of the exploits of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe and others: there are Inventions galore, usually implausible but both knowledgeable and imaginative.

The squibs assembled in The World of Alphonse Allais: Selected, Translated and Introduced by Miles Kington (coll 1976 trans Miles Kington; vt A Wolf in Frog's Clothing: The Best of Alphonse Allais 1983) only rarely feature Cap, but are likewise intermittently fantastic. One conceit is that Great Britain, hollowed out and lightened by excessive mining, now floats and would drift uncontrollably had the perfidious English not moored it in place – largely at other nations' expense – with cross-Channel and transatlantic Communication cables. Other selections include spoof Predictions of germ warfare, newspapers on microfiche and the inevitable exhaustion of fossil fuels. [JC/DRL]

Alphonse Allais

born Honfleur, Calvados, France: 20 October 1854

died Paris: 28 October 1905

works (selected)


Captain Cap

individual titles


previous versions of this entry

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