Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Engelbrecht Returns!

The dwarf surrealist boxer Engelbrecht was a character invented by Maurice Richardson in the 1940s. The Exploits of Engelbrecht is one of the oddest books ever published – a wild gothic satire on sport – and perhaps the finest example of British absurdist humour. In a set of 15 linked stories, Engelbrecht fights clocks, hunts politicians, wrestles with krakens, plays chess with atom bombs and takes part in a rugby game between a team of gigantic Martians and every human being who ever lived.

More than eight years ago I started to write a sequel to this amazing and underrated masterpiece, devoting the best part of a year to the project. The result of my intense work was a volume of 15 stories so tightly linked that I regard them as chapters in a novel rather than separate tales. Engelbrecht Again! is still (in my opinion) my cleverest and most convoluted book. It contains a plethora of OuLiPo style tricks, including lipograms, pataphors, coded passages, fourth wall breakage, typographical antics, pre-emptive strikes against the reader and massive self referentiality!

Night Shade Books (who published my Infamy in 2004) were going to issue Engelbrecht Again! in the USA but they pulled it at the last minute. Now Dead Letter Press have expressed an active interest in rescuing it from oblivion, in a manner not dissimilar to the way Dalkey Archive rescued Felipe Alfau’s wonderful Chromos. I am delighted. The dwarf is back, and so are his associates, including the Old Id, Chippy de Zoete, Tommy Prenderghast, Lizard Bayliss, Joey DeAth, the ‘Thing that is Scarcely a Thing’ and other characters even less salubrious...

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