Jean-Pierre Brisset

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The Prince of Thinkers welcomed and applauded in Paris.

Jean-Pierre Brisset (30 October 1837 – 2 September 1919) was a French writer.

Born into a farming family of La Sauvagère, Brisset was an outsider writer, much as Henri Rousseau was an outsider artist. He is a saint on the 'Pataphysics calendar. His writings are in publication as of 2004.

Brisset was an autodidact. Having left school at age twelve to help on the family farm, he apprenticed as a pastry chef in Paris three years later. In 1855, he enlisted in the army for seven years and fought in the Crimean War. En 1859, he learned Italian thanks to the war in Italy against the Austrians. After he was wounded at the Battle of Magenta, he was taken prisoner. During the Franco-Prussian War, he was a second lieutenant in the 50e régiment d'infanterie de ligne. Taken prisoner again, he was sent to Magdeburg in Saxony where he learned German.

In 1871 he published La natation ou l’art de nager appris seul en moins d’une heure (Learning the art of swimming alone in less than an hour) before resigning from the Army and moving to Marseilles, where he filed the patent for the "airlift swimming trunks and belt with a double compensatory reservoir". This commercial endeavor was a complete failure. He then returned to Magdeburg, where he earned his living as a language teacher, developing a method for learning French, which he self-published in 1874.

He became stationmaster at the railway station of Angers, and later of L'Aigle. After publishing another book on the French language, he undertook his major philosophical work, which consisted in spreading his theory that Man's origins were in the water, and He was descended from Frogs. He supported his contention by comparing the French and frog languages (like "logement"= dwelling, comes from "l'eau" = water). He was dead serious about his "morosophy", and penned several books and pamphlets expounding his indisputable substantiations, which he had printed and distributed at his own expense.

In 1912, novelist Jules Romains, who had got his hands on a copy of God's Mystery and The Human Origins, set up, with the help of a few fellow hoaxers, a rigged election for a "Prince of Thinkers". Unsurprisingly, Brisset got elected. The Election Committee then called him to Paris in 1913, where he was received and acclaimed with great pomp. He partook in several ceremonies and a banquet, uttering emotional words of thanks for this unexpected late recognition of his work. Newspapers exposed the hoax on the next day. Brisset died, aged 81, at La Ferté-Macé.

The Complete Works of Brisset were reprinted by Marc Décimo, Dijon, Les Presses du réel, 2001. In an essay entitled, Jean-Pierre Brisset, Prince des Penseurs, inventeur, grammairien et prophète, Dijon, Les presses du réel, 2001, Marc Décimo has given a biography, explanations about Brisset's delirium about frogs as ancestors of humankind. Translations in several languages (European languages, Wolof, Armenian, Arabic, Houma, etc.) can be found in this book as well.[citation needed] It also includes the major texts written about Brisset by Jules Romains, Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Raymond Queneau, Michel Foucault. In 2004 the Art of Swimming (as a frog) was published in paperback.

Around 2001, Ernestine Chassebœuf wrote several letters to French politicians, universities, railway stations, library directors, psychiatric hospitals, to suggest they name a street, a university, etc. after Brisset. Their answers were published on a website dedicated to him,[1] but there is no "rue Jean-Pierre Brisset" yet. Thanks to a bequest to Jules Romain, an annual dinner in his memory was made possible until 1939.


  • Œuvres complètes, Les Presses du réel, collection L'écart absolu, Dijon, 2001 et 2e éd. 2004.
  • Œuvres natatoires, Les Presses du réel, collection L'écart absolu - poche, Dijon, 2001.
  • La Grande nouvelle, Édition en fac similé du Cymbalum Pataphysicum.


  1. ^ Website about Jean-Pierre Brisset at