Equus Press enthusiastically welcomes the publication of the Irreal Reader, an anthology of writings from Café Irreal magazine, comprising the best of the fiction and essays from its first 40 issues. The anthology was launched in Prague last November, together with George Bataille’s Louis XXX. (translated by Stuart Kendall; London: Equus Press, 2013). Image: Franz Kafka head – mechanical statue by David Černý, Prague.
By the late 1990s, the brief flirtation that American writers had been having with non-realist genres and experimental narratives was over; the focus had returned to the staid realism, the “cult of experience,” that has traditionally characterized American literature.
Not at all happy with this state of affairs, the two of us wanted to do something about it. Given all the talk at the time about the internet, that something seemed obvious: start an online literary journal dedicated to non-realist fiction.
But we were also partially based in Prague, where the literary presence of Franz Kafka loomed large for us. And so the journal wound up publishing a very specific type of non-realist fiction–one in which the reality of the story is being constantly undermined; in which the story is an allegory pointing to so many unknown meanings; and in which the absurd becomes normal and the reader is never permitted the reassurance of normality. In other words, we published Kafkan or, as we have termed it, irreal fiction.
And if we haven’t proven any more successful than the other online literary journals at displacing the realist orthodoxy from its dominance of American letters, then, with them, we can at least claim some credit for helping to expand the range of literature being published, read and, presumably, written.
More specifically, we lay claim (demonstrated, we believe, by this anthology) that this irreal, Kafkan literature is an important literary genre in and of itself.
–G.S. Evans & Alice Whittenburg (co-editors)
The Man in the Red Raincoat, by J.B. Mulligan
Every night at the station I see a man in a red raincoat. Whether I disembark from the front or back of the train, he is always waiting at the opposite end of the platform. If I walk toward him, he ducks behind a pole casually, as if by chance – and when I arrive, he is gone. This continues, day after day, for years. I have no idea who he is or why he is there, and the other passengers never seem to notice him.
One night, when I step down onto the platform, I realize he is not there. As the train pulls out, I turn to look, impelled by some strange force, and he is there in the train window, smiling sadly. I chase after the train, falling further and further behind, but unable to stop, and I cry out as it rounds a curve and disappears.
When I finally go round the curve myself, many minutes later, the train is gone. I gasp for breath and realize that the tracks themselves have ended. I go back, and see that the tracks I ran down are now gone and the station itself has disappeared. I realize that I am naked, and collapse weeping in frustration as a sudden cold hard rain drives nails into my skin.