The Supermale

The Supermale

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Author: Alfred Jarry

Translators: Ralph Gladstone and Barbara Wright

Publisher: Exact Change (1999)

With the very first word of his famous play Ubu Roi―"Shite!"―Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) threw down his challenge to literature, permanently altering its course thereafter. Jarry's equally revolutionary novels form the cornerstones of a science he named "Pataphysics," a method for the rational disordering of rationality that has influenced countless subsequent artists and writers, from Marcel Duchamp to Wim Delvoye, André Breton to J.G. Ballard. The Supermale elaborates a carnal Pataphysics: André Marcueil, gentleman and scientist, believes that human energy has no limits, and demonstrates his belief by undertaking a 10,000-mile bicycle race with a locomotive, followed by an indefinite bout of lovemaking. After 82 acts of intercourse, doctors finally hook him up to a machine, with whom he merges in the book's―and the Supermale's―final climax. Like a mock Jules Verne, Jarry describes these deranged proceedings in a calm prose, crisply rendered here by Barbara Wright, one of French literature's finest translators.