Roads to Nowhere? Cycling, Happiness and Emotional Authenticity in Contemporary German Fiction

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This article compares a selection of recent German literary representations of cycling in the context of contemporary discourses of slow travel, with a particular focus on themes of happiness and emotional authenticity. It seeks to expand the framework of discussions of slow travel with a comparative focus on four novels: Der Mann auf dem Hochrad (‘The Man on the Penny Farthing’, 1984) by Uwe Timm, Im Sommer wieder Fahrrad (‘I’ll cycle again in the summer’, 2016) by Lea Streisand, Im Feld (‘In the Field’, 2018) by Joachim Zelter and Neujahr (‘New Year’, 2018) by Juli Zeh. The article surveys the cultural history of cycling, and pays attention to the status of cycling in German society and culture. Drawing on the work of John Day, Valeria Luiselli, Erling Kagge and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it presents a reading of the texts’ treatment of cycling as performance within a broader reflection upon “slow” travel as a non-functional, affective and “authentic” practice is experienced as a fundamental contrast to everyday life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in 20th & 21st Century Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020

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