Notes sur le rire (

Notes sur le rire ("Notes on Laughter")

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First Edition

Paris, Nagel, 1947


A topic that Marcel Pagnol always found fascinating and in which he is a past master. He studies the process that provokes laughter and the noble nature thereof. Then he praises those who are talented enough to make their fellowmen laugh, when they often are in distress.

Here is our definition of laughter:

1. Laughter is a triumphant song; it is the expression of a momentary but suddenly discovered superiority of the laughing over the laughed at.

2. There are two sorts of laughter, as distant but also as perfectly connected as both poles of our planet.

3. The first one is true laughter, sound, tonic and restful laughter:
I am laughing because I feel superior to you (or to him, to the whole world or to myself). We call it positive laughter.

4. The second one is hard, almost sad:
I am laughing because you are inferior to me. I am not laughing at my superiority, I am laughing at your inferiority. That is negative laughter, contemptuous laughter, vengeful laughter, vendetta laughter or at least laughter of revenge.

5. Between both types of laughter, various kinds of nuances can be found. And on the equator, equidistant from both poles, you can find full laughter, comprising a combination of both laughter. When General Leclerc's army managed to recapture Paris, people laughed with tears of joy, for France had been freed and had regained its place in the world; and people laughed bitterly, for the oppressor had been chased out, trampled on, crushed. That was complete laughter, laughter coming from the entire body and soul; that was, in all its strength, man's laughter.