The Sick List
*Nominated for the 2022 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction*
On a patch of wasteland at the borders of the contemporary university Gordon stages his last tutorial. His student finds it in the verge; a trail of deception across marginal notes and decaying paper. Gordon gives lessons in sickness and makes sick by teaching. He teaches the end of education and the end of educated culture.
Michael Caines, Times Literary Supplement, 25 June 2021; Juliano Zaffino, Instagram, 13 July 2021; Alex Kudera Goodreads.com, 13 July 2021; Steve Hanson, Manchester Review of Books, 3 September 2021; Wesley Beal, Full Stop, 12 November 2021.
“Ansgar Allen’s The Sick List is must-read academic life meets Thomas Bernhard in a fancy new world of giraffe spittle, stall squatting, dehydration, and catatonia. Discard your life and read this novella.” – Alex Kudera.
“The Sick List might be the ur-Creative Critical text, and if it is, it is the ur-Creative Critical text as sheer negation. It is the absolute zero degree nadir, from which someone, impossibly, might start to make a utopian push upwards.” – Steve Hanson
“a timely examination of higher learning’s malaise” Wesley Beal.
A brief discussion of how Bernhard influenced my writing, ‘Five books by Thomas Bernhard‘, and ‘Six Questions for Ansgar Allen‘ both up at beyondcriticism.net, February 2021. See also the author page here.
SHORT FILM WITH READINGS FROM THE BOOK
(also available via Boiler House Press here)
INTERVIEW WITH MIKE CORRAO
‘The Sick List operates on the far side of literature’ – John Schad
This novel takes the form of a single paragraph in which the narrator, an unnamed academic in an unnamed contemporary university, relates his obsession with his tutor, Gordon. He pores over Gordon’s increasingly bizarre mis-readings in annotations to a strange selection of stolen library books. Meanwhile, an epidemic of catatonia breaks out; academics are found slumped and unconscious at their desks. Is the only escape to become sick of reading itself?
Witty, moving, and beautifully written, The Sick List treads a fine line between deploring and exemplifying what it most despises. Inspired by the work of the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard, it considers how the minds of educated people are moulded by both the deceits of bookish culture and the narrowness of academic institutions.
‘The Sick List is about menace, about a menace (Gordon), and is written in the voice of a menace. It reads like one of the pen-portraits of surreal ultra-violence in Bernhard’s Gargoyles, where education turns out to be the most deceitful panacea of all.’ – Katharine Craik