Encounters between man and technology in Le surmâle take on perverse and morbid characteristics. In the novel, a “love-inspiring-machine” electrocutes the hero after he demonstrates his supermale status by engaging in sex eighty-two consecutive times. The novel also features a ten-thousand-mile race between a locomotive and a five-man tandem bike. The riders are fueled with “perpetual motion food”—a compound chiefly comprised of strychnine and alcohol. Midway through the race, one of the cyclists dies; the corpse, whose feet are strapped to the pedals, continues on, however, and the “human mechanisms” outlast the train.
Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Le surmâle: Roman moderne. Cover illustration by Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) (Paris: Fasquelle éditeurs, 1970). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197614. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.