WRETCH “commands a place in the archive of texts to hang onto for however many years are left, whether we call that a canon or not.” – Steve Hanson
An “intensely laid, nightmare world, which describes, in a succession of short chapters, the conditions that produced the very text that we read. Writing circulates, proliferates, explores invents the world which it describes, and in so doing becomes trapped, as its authors are trapped, in the exercise of knowing, or attempting to know, or attempting to copy those that have pretended to know. Through reading we appear to be in a nightmare, but this is no dream. It’s obvious that we read our way into a metaphor that attempts to honestly describe, and lightly satirise (in the tradition of Kafka and Borges), the world. Knowledge is bondage. If that sounds abstract, the novel takes you along the way, logical, tethered and tight, with not a word wasted.” – Matthew Cheeseman
“Allen maintains an economic style throughout, the language conveying the barest details of the characters and landscapes… Sisyphean and Kafkaesque, I was most struck by the similarity to Tarkovsky’s Stalker. It’s hard to read without picturing this world in sepia. Most notable for being a very singular vision, rendered with consistency and focus.” – Rebecca Gransden
“It’s as if the author has eschewed any temptation to tread the accepted path, to fit snuggly into a genre… For this he deserves much credit. This short book is a great example of the power of the written word in being able to chill with the most simple of structures… I thoroughly recommend it.” – Andy Weston
Hanson, S. (2020) Manchester Review of Books & under Six Questions by Steve Hanson; Corrao, M. (2020) Big Other; Wilkins, J. (2020) Everybody’s Reviewing; Gransden, R. (2020) Library Thing; Gransden, R. goodreads.com, 15 December; Christopher, R. (2021) Well-Read Bear; Weston, A. (2021) goodreads.com 29 June.
2 YEAR ANNIVERSARY FILM
SOUNDSCAPE (BY EMILE BOJESEN)
“Partly provoked by Ansgar Allen’s forthcoming dystopian novella, Wretch (Schism Press), Bojesen’s second solo album was composed from approximately 60 segments of sound, captured while reading, and influenced by the feel of different sections, specific words, and phrases from the book. These segments were then organised and ‘performed’ in a semi-improvised manner, through triggers and overlaps, recording the result. These recordings were then split in to two songs with minimal further processing.”
“In Ansgar Allen’s Wretch, a naked prisoner in a cell dutifully records the seemingly ineluctable decay of ‘the Known City’ with the aid of a writing machine. Each account, however, is a reordering of the scattered testaments of souls disordered by expeditions into an ever encroaching ‘Outside’. The unreliability of its copyist is thus no postmodern trope but derives from the principled impossibility of the copy. Wretch thus builds its horror from the simplest metaphysical constituents, envelops the reader like slow mo Ligotti, but is yet more paradoxically disturbing for the glacial consistency of its prose.” — David Roden, author of Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human.
“If Samuel Beckett had rewritten Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth while watching Tarkovsky’s Stalker, you might get something like Wretch. A hypnotic expedition into the cells and territories of an ecological dystopia and the lives of those in its service. Terrifying, haunting, but also, in places, strikingly beautiful, like the flowers blooming in the radioactive landscapes of Diana Thater’s Chernobyl.” — Emile Bojesen, author of Forms of Education and Reader in Education at the University of Winchester.
“A copyist, or rather the body of a copyist, is at work in a cell. He is nameless, as is everyone. There are no names in his world. Pieces of paper are pushed under his door, and he is busy at a machine. Both body and machine are, though, having trouble. Infernal reason is on the rise. What now? Stunning.”— John Schad, Professor of Modern Literature, University of Lancaster, and author, most recently, of Paris Bride.
“Pessoa once said: ‘[t]o still not have died is enough for life’s wretches, and to still have hope.’ One of these wretches produced the copy you hold in your hands, and while that might go some way toward explaining this book’s title and thematic, allow me to expand. // Ansgar Allen is an accomplished stylist engaged in a highly structured, critical form of fiction-as-medium (in the manner of Marcel Proust or Marcel Broodthaers, for instance), thus what he has ostensibly given us in Wretch is a stack of found copy (format trouvé) — produced by an entirely unreliable narrator — that bound together constitutes a sort-of-narrative straddling the landscape of reason and its Other; stratifying, accordingly, compulsively, infernal regions and impregnable fortresses. // Less a book than an ‘object-event’ (in the Foucauldian sense), Wretch is a meticulously constructed puzzle of reality and unreality, of psychological and . . . creeping biological horror, relayed by an abject Sisyphean copyist whose conscription in this (alien and alienating) loopy labour largely eludes us, but whose droning prose is at once maddeningly mundane and insanely compelling. // A textual aberration worthy of Schism Neuronics. If you enjoyed B.R. Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis, you’ll love this!” — Edia Connole, Schism editorial board member and author, most recently, of ‘So, Black Is Myself,’ in Hebdige and Subculture in the Twenty-First Century: Through the Subcultural Lens.
“What at first feels like a bleak update of Beckett’s Molloy soon devolves into a terrifying take on Tarkovsky’s Stalker. An imprisoned, nameless narrator tasked with copying knowledge, to render “what was written” into print, transcribes reports of a traveling party who wandered beyond the confines of “the known city.” Wretch reflects an increasingly isolated, unthinkable world, one in which unknown regions encroach upon the comforts of our bleach-soaked jail cells. The very act of reading this book—an object so wonderfully and frighteningly about itself—risks exposure to decay and disintegration. You’ll never see the act of creation in quite the same way again.” — David Peak, author of The Spectacle of the Void.