plague theatre

by Ansgar Allen

ISBN 978-1-9996964-5-0. Paperback, 112 pp. Publication date: February 2022. Equus Press: London & Prague. Price: € 12.00 (not including postage).

Order directly from Equus Pressor try the Kindle version.

Read an Equus interview with the author here.

Watch a PLAGUE THEATRE YouTube clip here.

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 a secondary, or peripheral concern 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 that cruelty which appears as revelation ‘that all the perversity of which the mind is capable, whether in a person or a nation, becomes localized’.

“A Gesamtkunstwerk of fragments [in which] there is so much to explore […]. Its importance for our present moment is that it makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar, in order to show us where we live, in a time of very rapid transition.”—Steve Hanson, Manchester Review of Books

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 Anatomizing Uncanny Alley)

“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 Mutations)

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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
May 2023
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