2022 Equus Press.
Set in Scarborough on the north coast of England, Plague Theatre narrates the pestilence or perversion which took hold of the town in or around 1720.
Plague Theatre is concerned with the plague that is already present in society before the virus, or bacterium, or rat. It offers an extended meditation on Antonin Artaud’s neglected essay ‘Theatre and the Plague’, in which Artaud claims that the pathogenic cause of each plague is secondary, or peripheral before the real calamity which is social. Both plague and theatre achieve, for Artaud, ‘the exteriorization of a latent undercurrent of cruelty’. It is through cruelty which appears as revelation ‘that all the perversity of which the mind is capable, whether in a person or a nation, becomes localized’.
“Ansgar Allen has quickly become one of my favorite authors. He takes risks and writes well—these things alone are a rarity today. Equal parts informative, entertaining, and aesthetically appealing, Plague Theatre is an excellent introduction to his evolving oeuvre.” — D. Harlan Wilson.
“The excavation and the exhumation are merged here. An early Briton appears, in an early coffin, a hollowed tree, the body as black as Jet. Anyone who has explored the Scarborough and Whitby coastline – I have, and looking for fossils – will know that Jet comes from the remains of the monkey puzzle tree, which has been compressed for millions of years. This is more than a metaphorical device.” — Steve Hanson
“[Ansgar Allen’s] fiction is somewhat reminiscent of the work of Lars Iyer, although while Iyer’s novels take the form of quasi-Platonic dialogues in which the characters talk about philosophical ideas, Allen’s seem more like parables or fables, in which the narrator-protagonist does directly invoke specific books and ideas but which also themselves embody or dramatize the implications of ideas and ways of thinking.” — Daniel Green
“Plague Theatre is a superb book. Ansgar Allen has created a terrarium of decay; a hall of mirrors whose corridors are lined with countless psychomanteums depicting varying stages upon which everything crumbles in reflection of our own supreme annihilation.” – Daniel Beauregard, author of You Alive Home Yet? (Schism Neuronics), Anatomizing Uncanny Alley (Self Fuck) and Total Darkness Means No Notifications (Anstruther Press)
“Imagine W. G. Sebald and Italo Calvino collaborated to write an autodecaying mystery on the possibilities of something definitive happening in Scarborough, in London, in Caligari, in Marseille, in Camus’ Oran, in anyplace at anytime, and you’ll have some idea of the brilliant, dramaturgically-infused vision of abstracted pestilence that is Plague Theatre. Part phantom exegesis, part metafictional Klein bottle, Ansgar Allen has written a novel about writing, a text about the exhilarating dangers of repetition and of continuity as obsession, as Yersinia pestis. With Artaud’s “Theatre and the Plague” and Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year as scrambled guidebooks to its multiplicious and provisional somewhere, the reader is left to bob, delirious, like driftwood in the sibylline and necrotic sludge of our stubbornly inconclusive histories. Artaud considered the plague, like theatre, to be “a crisis resolved either by death or cure,” but here we are offered a third way, a non-direction, a resilient sickness, a resolution resistant to completion till the very end (and there is no end).” – Gary J. Shipley, author of numerous books including Terminal Park (Apocalypse Party), Mutations (Infinity Land Press), and Stratagem of the Corpse: Dying with Baudrillard (Anthem Press).