Ludovic Bruckstein - Despite engaging with darkest of times — the Second World War, its lead-up, and its immediate aftermath — the book’s narrative voice is warm and understanding, reminiscent of Anton Chekhov’s. Its value resides above all in bringing to life a world that has now since vanished: the intricate multi-ethnic communities and towns in 1930s and 1940s Transylvania

Slikovni rezultat za Ludovic Bruckstein te trap
Ludovic Bruckstein, The Trap, Trans. by Alistair Ian Blythe, Istros Books, 2019.

Bruckstein's two novellas, published for the first time in English, offer a fascinating depiction of rural life in the Carpathians around the time of the Second World War, tracing the chilling descent into disorder and fear of two cosmopolitan communities that had hitherto appeared to be havens of religious and racial acceptance, but which were in fact constructed on foundations of prejudice and discrimination. Bruckstein presents the effects of the Holocaust not only on the Jewish community, but also the wider Christian society. His novellas tell cautionary tales of how gradual changes that individually seem inconsequential can lead to catastrophic alterations in the very fabric of society which, by the time they are acknowledged, are irreversible. These stories serve as a warning that passivity and political apathy can sometimes be just as harmful as actions.

One of the great things about reviewing translated fiction from around the world is those discoveries that turn up over the years those lost books and writers. In the great intro to the book from its translator about how Bruckstein maybe is the greatest Romanian writer of the post-war era but was little known as he was banned by the Romanian regime. He wrote a number of plays including the night shift that was about sonder Komando revolt at Auschwitz. He wrote this book late in his life it is semi-autobiographical Like the character Ernst in the book he lived in the Transylvanian town of Sighet in the Ghetto there he lost all his family a[art from himself and his younger brother as with most of the towns Jews.
To ernst, a student who had been abroad, the law seemed not only humilating, nt only insulting, but also stupid and ridiculous. It was a small town and everybody knew everybody knew everybody else, and for a fact, everybody knew who was a jew. And who was a Romanian. And who was a Hungarian. And who was a Ukranian and who was a Zipser erman. And who was a Gypsy . Nobody tries to hide what he was. The law was quite simply idotic. If a person knows you, what is the point of his making you wear a sign.
Ernst questioins wearing the star on their clothes.
The book is a selection of two novellas The trap and The rag doll both are set in the Carpathian mountains in the rural towns like his own childhood home of Sighet and shows the ripple effect of the Germans taking over and the changes that brought about and how it ripped the heart out of this town. I am focusing on the trap which has Ernst A student who had spent time away from his home town dealing with having to wear a yellow star. He says why can’t Catholics have a c the reformist has an r and so on as he points out we all we are jews as they are Ukranian or Hungarian or the local Zipser germans. There is a scene where all the jews are stopped and held by so troops for hours Ernst is one of the ones that questions why they are being held there and what for he even says he asks in his best Viennese German to the young troop. The growing trouble as we see the happenings in the town through Ernst’s eyes as they see there lives shrink and the transport trains start to take the Jews away from Sighet.
On the morning of 16 may 1944, Ernst woke up abruptly in his bed of moist hay in the loft of Ioun Stan’s barn
He thought he had heard a noise rising from the town, a strange hum made up of words and cries, mingled with harsh orders. Was it a dream? No, the sound persisted, perhaps more faintly than during sleep, but even so, it could still be heardup there on the slope of Agris Hill
The Ghetoo is being cleared and it wakes Ernst
I was recently at the Uk holocaust museum with My wife we were struck by the exhibition and the stories of those involved. But what is never captured is the lose of a community here Brickstein does a similar thing to the Lithuanian writer Grigory kanovich did in the book Shelti Love song which I reviewed a couple of years ago that caught the lose of a community the Shelti jews of Lithuania here we see the Jewish community of Sighet which was 13000 before the war which was nearly fifty percent of the population I was reminded of the way Dasa Drndric described the Italian edition of her book Trieste which had a list of Italian jews killed was passed around a crowd and if some new a name it was taken out. I read up on Sighet in 2002 there were just twenty jews so it shows the impact of the war in that community Ernst is based on Ludovic he sees his family friends and community slowly squeezed out of the town. I am one that thinks there can never be enough of books like this brought out in English and discovered as we see growing hatred in our own country we need to see what happens further down that road of hatred !! Istros have brought us a lost gem of Mittel European fiction - https://winstonsdad.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/the-trap-by-ludovic-bruckstein/

With its fast-pace and smooth, unpretentious prose, The Trap seems to imbue oral storytelling rather than literary artifice. Translated by Alistair Ian Blythe, the two novellas are the first of Jewish-Romanian author Ludovic Bruckstein’s works to be published in English. Despite engaging with darkest of times — the Second World War, its lead-up, and its immediate aftermath — the book’s narrative voice is warm and understanding, reminiscent of Anton Chekhov’s. Its value resides above all in bringing to life a world that has now since vanished: the intricate multi-ethnic communities and towns in 1930s and 1940s Transylvania, with their daily chatter, worries and dramas. Yet they also quietly explore the crucial question, “how did we come to this?”
Remembering the Jewish-Romanian author whose Holocaust stories continue to inspire
The first novella, also called The Trap, follows a young Jewish architecture student, Ernst, who is forced to interrupt his studies in Vienna and retire to the mountains near his hometown of Sighet to avoid wartime conscription. Finding shelter within the robust yet welcoming home of a shepherd’s family, Ernst reflects on his hometown, which has “a courthouse and a large prison, five Christian churches, [...] five synagogues, six primary schools; four lyceums; a large cafe that served Turkish coffee and tea in the front salon and which had rooms for billiards and cards at the back; two small cake shops on the Corso, which was the main street; a brothel at the edge of town, which was named the Jardin; and a Palace of Culture”. From his hiding spot in the woods, he observes the changes within the town, as the Nazi-allied Hungarian army takes over and begins to harass and antagonise the locals, and as his own family is ultimately sent away.
Despite the tragic reality it depicts, there’s unexpected humour throughout the story. Ernst ponders on the ridiculousness of the legally-enforced armbands for Jews to wear, especially in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. “Maybe people should also be marked according to their occupation?,” he wonders. “Barbers would have a B, for example, Merchants an M, teachers a T, doctors a D, pickpockets a PP, and so on.” Absurdism is a recurrent theme in this first novella, culminating with the Russian soldiers’ Kafkaesque reaction to Ernst as he appears in the “liberated” streets.
Despite describing past communities, the themes explored in Bruckstein’s novellas remain urgent in today’s multicultural, globalised world.
The second novella, titled The Rag Doll, focuses on Hanna, a smart young girl who defies her parents’ expectations and, like her reprobate aunt, runs away with a philosophy graduate to live a simple life working the land. After exploring the intergenerational conflict between traditional parents and their adventurous children in the first part of the story, it moves on to the challenges of married life. Bruckstein’s insight is most valuable in scrutinising “salon anti-semitism” as the young couple hide their Jewish identity from their fellow villagers. At one party, Hanna hears a notary flippantly comment that, “Whoever it was who said it had a point when he said that [Jews] are like salt in food.” When he adds that, “wherever you go, like it or not, you trip over them…” the phrase does not just carry the darkest historical undertones, but also uncannily echoes the anti-immigrant discourse that is resurging today.
Indeed, despite describing past communities, the themes explored in Bruckstein’s novellas remain urgent in today’s multicultural, globalised world. Rather than focusing on the brutality of concentration camps and war, Bruckstein investigates seemingly innocent prejudice and discrimination, political passivity and the dangers they pose.
The Trap is loosely autobiographical: Bruckstein himself was born in Sighet in 1920, survived Auschwitz but lost his parents in the Holocaust. He debuted with a play in Yiddish in 1947, and then wrote in both Romanian and Yiddish. In 1972, he migrated to Israel, where he continued to write for the Jewish Romanian community there. It’s thanks to his experience that these lost worlds are brought, once again, to life. - Paula Erizanu

Surviving the Holocaust and escaping communist Romania, Ludovic Bruckstein continued to rebuild his life by writing short stories inspired by the people he met. After three decades, his novellas have finally been published in English. Here, his son reflects on his father’s courage and compassion.

Alistair Ian Blyth - a series of dreamlike narratives loosely linked by the subject of libraries: book hoarding, book hunting, book burning, and, above all, the dreams of infinite other books - past and future - that every individual codex volume inspires

Slikovni rezultat za Alistair Ian Blyth, Card Catalogue, complete review
Alistair Ian Blyth, Card Catalogue, Dalkey Archive Press, 2020.


Alistair Ian Blyth's Card Catalogue is a book about books. Set in Bucharest in the decade after the Revolution, it presents a series of dreamlike narratives loosely linked by the subject of libraries: book hoarding, book hunting, book burning, and, above all, the dreams of infinite other books--past and future--that every individual codex volume inspires. Whether he is describing his encounters with Gribski (whose strange hidden library in Bucharest he is to see but once) or itemizing the various books whose existence he has dreamed (including "a collection of children's paeans to Ceausescu bound in the same volume as a slim commentary on Pound's Canto XIV") Blyth shows himself to be a card catalogue unto himself. In the tradition of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Alberto Manguel, this book is bound to please.

The world of Card Catalogue is an almost entirely literary one, book-obsessed. The significant characters the narrator has contact with are almost entirely book-men: Gribski, who has a grand, strange library which the narrator only glimpses once (and which he convinces Gribski to lend him a single book from) and Obmanschi -- "A mostly unpublished writer and obscure figure on the periphery of avant-garde literary circles in inter-bellum and nineteen-forties Bucharest". Their very beings are almost entirely literary, dominated by their books and reading.
The author-narrator is similarly book-obsessed -- scouring libraries even in his dreams, for example, and imagining non-existent books ("Idiota, a lost Latin translation of a lost Armenian translation of a lost pseudo-Platonic dialogue between Socrates and Hippolytus Terentyev"). He is fascinated by the idea of Gribski's collection -- one that remains almost entirely beyond his actual ken; Gribski is: "a burrower and grub-worm encysted in a bibliotheca abscondita" but his library of exceptional tomes is one the narrator only gets a small real-life impression of, the rest left up to his imagination ..... And while Obmanschi actually "owned no more than a dozen or so books" (and wouldn't have had room for a large collection in his single-room apartment in any case), he too lives entirely submerged and engaged in the literary, a great reader (in libraries).
The author-narrator can approach these figures almost only through the lens of the literary. He is an author, he is writing a (this) book, but physical character-description, or accounts of personal experience largely elude him; as he explains:
By the very nature of my condition, I was unable to keep a record of those events, their motivations and manifestations, which might then have furnished the raw materials for a novel, of the kind that draws upon autobiographical wellsprings, rather than the book I am now attempting to write, constructing fictional characters from the fabric of other fictions.
Obmanschi was an obsessive cataloguer, and his apartment was filled with thousands of slips of paper, fiches of identical size that were his reading notes and catalogue. Much of Card Catalogue consists of samples of these -- two longer stretches of the novel, focused on two of Obmanschi's projects: his catalogue of: "every mention of the tarakan ('cockroach') that he had come across in his reading", as well as the material for a book he envisaged writing: "a 'catalogue raisonné' of all the books to be found in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Russian fiction". These examples and the accompanying commentary are both amusing and interesting, making for unusual connections as well as unexpected insights into the authors and works, a detail-obsession that often also reflects on the work (or life) as a whole -- down to the observation about how:
The Gogolian cockroach peeps out at us from the cracks under the skirting board; the Dostoevskian cockroach is heard but not seen, rustling behind wallpaper, scurrying across the floor in the dark.
The narrator tends towards this systematic collecting, too, with lists (such as of the imagined books in his dreams, or the dusty: "inventory of the multifarious detritus and dust that litters or clings to the various surfaces of the room in which character N—— wallows indolently") or a deep-dive into the color yellow (that oppresses him at one point).
The contrast between fundamental specificity -- the very building-blocks of literary works arduously catalogued and considered -- and the elusive and ephemeral is striking in the novel. What reading-experiences are recounted focus on details, not the whole; mentions rather than entire books. So also Obmanschi's catalogue of books-in-books makes for a second-hand account of the reading experience (and, to some extent, what it means to the (fictional) characters). Meanwhile, many of the books otherwise mentioned are ones that have never existed, or been lost -- down to Obmanschi's own: "failed and forgotten avant-garde manifesto". Typically, too, the one book that the narrator borrowed from Gribski's grand collection is never identified -- or even opened by the narrator -- and winds up becoming yet another (more or less) lost work.
Obmanschi's cataloguing-exercise ultimately proves also, if not one of futility -- it served his purposes -- ephemeral, all traces of it soon lost (beyond in the narrator's record here). Indeed, for all the characters' all-consuming literariness, Blyth allows none of them a lasting satisfaction in it; read into that what you will ..... Fiction -- taken apart, or in whole-book-chunks -- is building-block for them, arguably necessary even to their very being, but there's no getting around the sense of the characters (including the narrator) as in some ways -- or perhaps even entirely -- failed and ultimately unfulfilled characters, still seeking.
Card Catalogue is an appealing literary work, an immersion into a book-dominated world that is firmly grounded in an impressive familiarity with a great deal of classical literature -- especially Russian literature --, and offers fascinating incidental literary titbits (even if a considerable number of them are cockroach-related). The mix between deep-dive into the smallest details from a wide range books -- of which Blyth offers a considerable number -- to more sweeping overview, much like a quick taking-in of a great library, makes for an engaging work -- at least for those of a literary bent. Card Catalogue is both good fun and quite an impressive little novel. - M.A.Orthofer


Bruno Lloret - This world is a desert of crosses,' she remembers her father telling her - and in the visually striking layout of Nancy, crosses in bold make up the very fabric and rhythm of the book. The text is full of Xs, which can be read in many ways

Slikovni rezultat za Bruno Lloret, Nancy, Giramondo,
Bruno Lloret, Nancy, Trans. by Ellen Jones, Giramondo, 2020.

'One of the most original books of the year' - Natalia Barbelagua, Revista Intemperie

In a small city perched between the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, a dying
woman relives her childhood and adolescence in vivid detail. In the trance of her sickness, she recalls her reactions to the breakup of her family, the disappearance of her brother, the defection of her mother, her father's conversion to Mormonism - snapshots in which sex, violence, poverty and environmental degradation intersect against the oppressive and ecstatic backdrop of religious

'This world is a desert of crosses,' she remembers her father telling her - and in the visually striking
layout of Nancy, crosses in bold make up the very fabric and rhythm of the book. The text is full of Xs, which can be read in many ways: as multiplication symbols, scars, marks on a treasure map - or
as signs of erasure, the striking out of reality, the approach of death, like the cancer that threatens Nancy's life and memories.

'A novel that flows naturally and can be read quickly, which is not to say that it's simple - quite the opposite. It toys with existential questions about what it means to be human' - Juvenal Romero Perez, Revista Lecturas

'[Nancy] uncovers the painful wounds inflicted by belief and by poverty, when life has become a
wilderness, a minefield, an act of survival, in which even love and desire are reduced to nothing, witnesses to a happiness as improbable as it is precarious.' - Leonardo Sanhueza

Bruno Lloret was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1990. Nancy (2015), his debut novel, was highly commended in the Roberto Bolaño Prize. In 2018, he published his second novel, Leña.


Gerry Bibby - Evoking W. Burroughs’s The Wild Boys and R. Walser’s The Walk, these “language costumes” pay homage to an unruly tradition of radical and queer literary presences over the last century

Gerry Bibby, The Drumhead, Sternberg Press,


Artist Gerry Bibby’s first publication is a work of fiction that expands on the use of text in his sculpture, performance, and image work. Evoking William Burroughs’s The Wild Boys and Robert Walser’s The Walk, these “language costumes” pay homage to an unruly tradition of radical and queer literary presences over the last century. Their captivating passages brim with wit, wry observation, and (occasional) disgust, offering viewers “ways out,” even if only while reading.
Commissioned by If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to Be Part of Your Revolution, The Drumhead follows a two-year collaboration with KUB Arena of the Kunsthaus Bregenz, The Showroom London, CCA Glasgow, and the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. The book immodestly distills these institutional encounters into a multipart narrative that delves into the lives and psyches of those in the service industry. Exhaustion and frustration besiege a set of characters and the architecture that barely contains them, all of which are cipher-like in their multiplicity (and duplicity).

Benjamin Seror is a French artist and novelist who writes in front of an audience while performing. The main subject of this novel is language itself. What are the possibilities of words, and how can they be used in ways that produce situations?

Benjamin Seror, Mime Radio, Sternberg Press,


Mime Radio was performed and written orally by French artist Benjamin Seror at a series of events over a two-year period, then transcribed and edited into a novel. The story revolves around a cast of eccentric characters, who meet at the Tiki Coco, a bar in Los Angeles that holds “Challenging Reality Open Mic” nights for amateur inventors and performers. Eventually, the protagonists get caught up in trying to help Marsyas, a character from ancient Greek mythology that lost his body after being defeated in a music contest against the god Apollo, to recover his voice, his very ancient voice. Unbeknownst to them, this recovery unleashes a disaster… Mime Radio is a novel about how language and perception can be one and the same.

"This is the story of an ancient voice. This is the story of how Marsyas, poor Marsyas, recovered his voice millions of years after having lost it".

The Stedelijk Museum, in close collaboration with Kunstverein Amsterdam, is proud to present the final chapter in the performance series Mime Radio, which consists of an ongoing staged novel by artist Benjamin Seror. The story begins in a bar located in Los Angeles, the Tiki Coco. The bar is the center of the story where every night, a group of people attend the "Challenging Reality Open Mic" during which the audience is invited to take the microphone to present some new tools, techniques or ideas that could extend reality or at least shake it at it a bit. This meeting will see the growing friendship between four characters: Angie, Bernhard, Benjamin and David, as they move together to the Solog House built by one of them in the Hudson River Valley. This is also where they discover they have been followed by Marsyas, a character from ancient Greek mythology that lost his body after being defeated in a musical contest against the god Apollo. The characters proceed to help Marsyas to recover his voice, his very ancient voice, without knowing what disaster this recovery could unleash.
Each chapter of the novel has been staged through a cycle of improvised performances which are subsequently transcribed to be published in their entirety at a later stage. One of the main concerns of this project is the use of a public event as a possible writing technique, following the principles of Cinema Vérité as described by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin when collaborating on Chroniques d’un été (1960), a film about the impact of different camera movements on a situation and what its presence enables that would not otherwise be possible. In these films, the audience replaced the camera and the central question becomes: what would change for an author if s/he were to write a story directly addressed to a particular audience?
The main subject of this novel is language itself. What are the possibilities of words, and how can they be used in ways that produce situations? These questions are also paramount to all the different protagonists of the story who come together at the Tiki Coco. At this bar, they organize nightly events where they stretch the limits of language to describe tools that challenge reality. Most of the characters that appear in the novel come from other novels such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as well as living artists with whom Seror is in dialogue.

Many artists write novels, many novelists consider writing as art. And each of them has its own way of dealing with the process of writing itself. Thomas Wolfe was so tall that he was using the top of his refrigerator as a table. John Cheever wrote some of his stories wearing underwear. Flannery O’Connor was writing facing the back of cloth dresser. And French artist Benjamin Seror has been writing his novel Mime Radio, as he calls it “in public”, which means a use of public events as a possible writing technique.
The story appeared in orally written occasional chapters that have been presented as a series of improvised performances in different venues (such as Witte de With in Rotterdam or LACE in Los Angeles) and being recorded, then transcribed and edited are waiting to be publish in a form of a book. It’s allegedly last, twelfth stage took place on 26th of June 2014 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and was preceded by two other performances (of chapter X and XI) at Kunstverein Amsterdam.
Benjamin Seror performing in the Stedelijk Museum, photo Ernst van Deursen
For one evening the Stedelijk’s Teijin Auditorium transformed into a vision of a fictitious bar Tiki Coco - a place in Los Angeles where gather the protagonists of Seror’s story: Angie, Bernhard, Benjamin, David and Marsyas. However, the atmosphere of the place was evidently more official than befits a local bar. Tables were covered with white cloth, wine was served during the event, dim light. Everything to celebrate “The Very Ambitious Final Chapter”.
Although personally I am not entirely convinced if this glamour fit the intimacy of Seror’s performance. One thing is certain, it made him even more nervous than usual and it needs to be add here that Benjamin, as he says, reaches the numbing level of adrenalin easily. On the other hand Seror did this his asset by trying to overcome the stress in a very charming and funny way and thereby gaining some time to calm down and winning the sympathy of the audience. And that was even more important as the novel had been written addressed directly to particular public of the evening.
Inspired by magical realism, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Roberto Bolano’s prose, Mime Radio is a staged novel that while extending of its story it studies how the memory act, evolves and migrates to become eventually fiction. Accompanied from time to time by live music in a spirit of New Order (as Benjamin Seror is also a musician) could be placed somewhere between radio play and monodrama.
Benjamin Seror performing in the Stedelijk Museum, photo Ernst van Deursen
Seror, playing with imagination, made people conscious where they were in the story but he was not trying to make them to be a part of it or forced to visualize things he was talking about. The audience was a reader whose only control of time had been distorted. One couldn’t any more steer the time of turning pages.
The narrative of Mime Radio seemed to be pretty developed and expanded, however it was the language that was the main protagonist in this story. It had a power to transform the space into book which pages were unfolded into time. Written word became spoken, and the speech - a tool for triggering fancy. The phantoms of literature appeared in dialogue with living artists with whom Seror is befriended.
In these realms the events organized at Tiki Coco around “Challanging Reality Open Mic”, during which the people are invited to introduce techniques or ideas that could extent or shake the reality, presented by Seror as a part of the plot, became reality itself. Fictional and the real emerged as parallel presents. “In ancient times one could be killed by fiction”, said one of the last sentences of the “Mime Radio”.
Books are records of events that haven’t happened yet, claimed Blanchot. Seror’s journey with a novel is not entirely completed yet although he managed to leave particles of his story in our heads. I am wondering if the printed version would be necessarily then…Weronika Trojanska

Peter Wächtler - Passivity and contemplation characterize the narrators of Wächtler’s stories. Some speak from the vantage point of death, musing about their lives, recalling formative experiences and decisive moments. Those still alive seem paralyzed—functioning or malfunctioning within their world, but unable to act upon it.

Peter Wächtler, Come On, Ed. by John Kelsey, 

Jakob Schillinger, Sternberg Press, 2013.

Passivity and contemplation characterize the narrators of Peter Wächtler’s stories. Some speak from the vantage point of death, musing about their lives, recalling formative experiences and decisive moments. Those still alive seem paralyzed—functioning or malfunctioning within their world, but unable to act upon it. At a moment when narrating experiences seems more important than having them, and when such narrating takes on increasingly standardized forms, Wächtler’s writing foregrounds different narrative techniques and traditions as means of rationalizing one’s place in the world, of grappling with and giving meaning to one’s existence. Unlike the various fatalist and voluntarist doctrines which these stories mime, the social totality here creeps into the picture. Fate turns into slapstick and only as such conveys the horror of life in an administered world. Hollowed-out phrases from the repertoire of communication agencies and shallow love songs are made to speak beautifully of a world that is not—and critical theory proves as potent a means for territorial fights as fists or a kryptonite bicycle lock.
 Come On is a MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 publication in collaboration with Reena Spaulings Fine Art. It compiles ten texts by Peter Wächtler written between 2011 and 2013.

While Wächtler, who was born in 1979, works in a range of media, including drawing and ceramics as well as animated films and short fiction, his practice is narrative at its core. The objects he produces and his works on paper often seem like snapshots from his short stories, portraying similar personnel in analogous constellations, settings, and scenes. The humanoid animals predominant in Wächtler’s sculptures—for instance, an ensemble of three laboring mammals and one bird (Untitled, 2013), situated somewhere between The Burghers of Calais and the Town Musicians of Bremen, or oversize crabs confronting more agile creatures of the sea (Untitled, 2014)—find their complement in the stories’ animalistic humans. After the loss of his girlfriend, Peter, the protagonist of the story “At the Wiels” (2012), acquires a lobster to satisfy his “deep need of a true friend,” while his rival, Ragnar Pluto, not only shares his surname with a cartoon dog but also has “huge and shiny ivories, which were last seen during the war against the mammoth led by long extinct predators”; a “horse-like penis”; and a similarly equine mane.1 The narrator’s friend in “Come On”(2014), called “the Pig,” grunts instead of speaking and is eventually slaughtered.2 There are correspondences between narrative and object on the structural level, too. For example, the Janus-headed sculpture Untitled, 2014, juxtaposes lethargy and enthusiastic activity (or fiesta and siesta, to drive home the linguistic dimension of the sculptural pun) in a single being—a configuration found in many of the stories. Most important, the technological and aesthetic outmodedness that marks Wächtler’s drawings and sculptures resonates with his time-based work’s emphasis on the literary—at a moment when art discourse is largely defined by concerns that seem to belong to another cultural paradigm altogether: an obsession with anything remotely “post-Internet,” a fascination with the decline of subjectivity and the ever-accelerating rhythm of feedback and affect under a cybernetic regime, and an impulse to historicize the “Anthro-pocene” and the human as such.
TRACING THE INTIMATE historical connection between literature and humanism, philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, at the dawn of the Internet age, used the term postliterary to designate a fundamental restructuring of culture. He was quick to point out that “of course, that does not mean that literature has come to an end, but it has split itself off and become a sui generis subculture, and the days of its value as bearer of the national spirit have passed. The social synthesis is no longer—and is no longer seen to be—primarily a matter of books and letters. New means of political-cultural telecommunication have come into prominence.”3 Following Sloterdijk’s diagnosis, we might say that the untimeliness of the literary—the medium most associated with representing, transmitting, or producing subjectivity—pervades the whole of Wächtler’s practice. It is, however, not a literary practice. Rather, it could be seen as a postliterary investigation of media, production, subjecthood, and objecthood at the current moment—an enterprise that produces alternately comical and heart-wrenching effects.
First-person narrators take center stage in Wächtler’s stories, but rarely have much diegetic function. They passively contemplate their surroundings and, most of all, their own lives, recalling decisive moments, formative experiences, traumas. Many speak from beyond the grave, and even those still alive are paralyzed—functioning or malfunctioning within their world, but unable to act. The protagonists of a trilogy of animated films—Untitled, Untitled (Heat Up the Nickel), and Untitled (Crutches), all 2013—illustrate this condition starkly: Each is trapped inside a loop. While repetition of modular visual elements has always been central to the economy of animation, this labor-reducing device is typically meant to go unnoticed. But in Wächtler’s trilogy, the characters loop ad nauseam. Exhaustion is inscribed in their postures and movements as they enact typical cartoon routines, such as trudging across the screen on crutches or dragging themselves to bed only to stumble, fall, and get hit on the head by a bowling ball conveniently positioned nearby. They toss and turn, or sleeplessly sit on a makeshift cot by a flickering campfire, as fragmented narratives unfold via voice-overs or subtitles whose repetitious structures reiterate the sense of involution. The rat starring in Untitled recounts memories ranging from the banal to the surreal, conjuring moments of beauty or humiliation or pain, commencing each anecdote with the same words: “How I decorated my apartment and invited my new friends over who made me almost immediately feel like shit in every respect . . . How I lost my virginity on a stinking ferry to England . . . How a super-aggressive big white worm pops out of your left eye, while we are eating Asian noodles after a long day at work . . .” - Jakob Schillinger

Peter Wächtler’s work alternates between many different (narrative) forms to talk about everyday occurrences as well as his own experiences and observations, which he mixes with cartoons and references from pop culture, film and art history. Many of his works are witty and playful, and his figures are repeatedly caught up in a tragicomedy. His visual world often plays with language, and writing functions as a way to connect the different aspects to this practice. In a simple, but strong language, interspersed with small mistakes taken from the German syntax, one reads and hears Wächtler's semi-fictional prose poetry, describing memories, anecdotes, absurd situations. The exhibition spaces, the installation of the video works in the space in combination with other elements of his artistic work, also play an important role. Objects, sculptures and drawings sometimes reach from the projection screen into space, expanding the experience of his pictorial world and reality. What role does the surrounding space play in Wächtler's work, and what possibilities does it offer?

Allegorithms - Oscillating between the algorithmic & the representational, the human agent navigates its environmental niche in a way which is conducive to its further psychological, social, & biological existence

Allegorithms , ed. by Vít Bohal & Dustin  Breitling, Litteraria Pragensia, 2017. Contributors: Alexander R. Galloway, Marco Donnarumma...