Alfred Jarry, best known for his chaotic Ubu Roi plays, was the most committed cyclist of them all. He described the bicycle as an ‘external skeleton’ which allowed mankind to outstrip the processes of biological evolution. Jarry was an outrageous eccentric and a wild cyclist. He was no Bois de Boulogne buff, and counterpointed the public obsession with Bois fashions by wearing at all times the tight and gaudy costume of a professional racing cyclist. Jarry caused a stir by wearing it at the funeral of the revered poet Mallarmé, after having followed the cortège on his bicycle. He did make one concession at the funeral of his close friend Marcel Schwob: he pulled his trouser bottoms out of his stockings. He habitually rode round Paris with two revolvers tucked in his belt and a carbine across his shoulder. Some sources say he fired off shots to warn of his approach. It is known for certain, however, that in his maturer days he fixed a large bell from a tram car onto his handlebars. At night he kept his bicycle at the foot of his bed and cycled round the room on it during the day. He died in poverty at the age of thirty-four as a result of malnutrition and absinthe abuse. His literary works include a scandalous magazine article, ‘The Passion considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race’, and also ‘The Ten Thousand Mile Race’, in which the five-man crew of a multicycle, bound by rods to their machine, hurtle across Europe and Asia in a grotesque race against an express train. Paced by jet cars and flying machines they reach speeds of 300 kilometres an hour thanks to their diet of Perpetual Motion Food, a volatile mixture of alcohol and strychnine. One of the riders dies of an overdose whilst in the saddle, an event hardly noticed in the farcical pandemonium of technology.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Perpetual Motion Food
From James McGurn, On Your Bicycle: An illustrated history of cycling (highly recommended):