Alfred Jarry is responsible for modernism; without him, we might not have had Dadaism and surrealism. Much more importantly, though he loved to ride around Paris on a fixed gear bike and use pistols to keep people out of his way, truly a great way to get about. He may be best known for the play Ubu Roi, but he wrote a book called The Supermale, which deals with a 10,000-mile cycle race and, as far as I am concerned, inspired Le Tour de France, which appeared the year after the book came out.
The Supermale is a crazed novel in which a team of cyclists take on a train in a race set in the future of 1920. The novel was a tale of human endurance and pushing ourselves to the limits, as even when one of the cyclists dies, their feet keep moving around as the five-person bike powers on with the cyclists being powered by a perpetual-motion food that scientists had just created. Maybe this will make you think before you chug down another gel.
The novel is genuinely one of those pieces of literature that will confound you. Much like Jarry’s short life, it is chaotic and will have you questioning many of your beliefs.
Jarry, though, loved cycling, and you should too. He rode a fixed gear bike everywhere, concluding through his lodgings. He rode the bike out to rivers and lakes to go fishing; as far as I’m concerned, he was then riding tracklocross to engage in these pursuits.
He is one of us, and we should honour his memory, perhaps not by riding 10,000 miles at once, though, but you never know.
I was going to make this a longer piece, but I feel like I need to do more research and bring a much longer piece about him in the future.