Armand’s Glitchhead (2021) in the Rearview Mirror

Over the past few years, Louis Armand has been extremely prolific in his publications. The speed with which this Prague-based writer and academic has managed to write full-length novels and sprawling poetic texts is a point of interest in its own right, and his latest publication Glitchhead must be read as part of a sprawling palimpsest of concepts, themes, conceits and, in the most general sense, writing, which Armand has recently been publishing.

A short bibliography of merely his latest prose works: Clair Obscur (London: Equus, 2011), Breakfast at Midnight (London: Equus, 2012), Canicule (London: Equus, 2013), Cairo (London: Equus, 2014), Abacus (Sydney: Vagabond Press, 2015), The Combinations (London: Equus, 2016), GlassHouse (London: Equus, 2018), Gagarin (Always Crashing 3, 2020), The Garden (Director’s Cut) (Minneapolis: 11:11, 2020), Vampyr (Alienist, 2020), Hotel Palenque (Minor Literatures, 2021), and finally Glitchhead (Miskatonic Virtual University, 2021). Armand basically writes a novel a year, and these are not some chapbooks which one can pull off in a night’s binge session – The Combinations is a heavyweight at 888 pages of minutely tweaked, and linguistically complex prose (currently being translated to Czech and soon-to-be published), furthermore shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize and praised as “an important and corrosive novel, which is a commitment to creativity in the face of absurdity, a politics of avant garde literary concentration and experience.”1

Armand is certainly a prolific writer, and the volume of his work comes to expose a loose thread of themes, approaches, and methods like Smith–Cumming’s secreted secret ink put over a candle. One of these effects of reading his work is that every novel seems to index other ones. His writing seems a perennially shifting and supplementary flux of signs which eschew a classical novelist approach of quiet devotion to the themes and form in order to write a packageable and sellable novel for a cozy, bourgeois, anglophone market. Armand rather accepts the stakes of language and writing as such and writes through traces. Although some of his works show a more narrative-driven and structured side of his literary vision, such as the lyrical family-drama Abacus, or even the aforementioned The Combinations (which offers the reader a mystery romp in the occasional style of Meyrink’s Golem or Umberto Eco’s Prague Cemetery with a nod to Foucault’s Pendulum), most of his novels are written within the maelstrom of language – their form is loose and experimental, favoring a generative poetics of the moment.

Glitchhead is pretty high up on the scale of experimentation, employing a mash-up, collaged text which sometimes reads like a good-old cut up, to oftentimes raucous effect. The text veers in and out of graphic inlays, employing Armand’s particular visual style, similar to that of the Interior Ministry or the Alienists (see pics). It offers the reader a stream-of-consciousness flow interspersed with a set of characters engaging in hyper-contrarian dialogue: Offensia (the forever-war of subaltern politics), Moloch (the name-of-the-father), Nyx gLand (the hacked up bio-modded nobody’s favorite philosopher), G.O.D. (the holey ghost)…

Although the form can at first seem daunting, Armand shows a mastery of language by his frequent use of very effective gnomic memes which tie the reading experience into an experimental coherency: “the shifting sands of emphasis tell the tale: ONLY THAT WHICH LACKS AN ‘INNER CONTRADICTION’ IS TRUEORFALSE,” or “for who hasn’t dreamt of being the Holy Virgin’s cunt, author of the original plague? it’s no less true that all genuine art leads us by a detour, which may be longer or shorter, back to incest.” This image-driven, memetic style is made explicit by the heavy use of the aforementioned graphic inlays, which mash up text with a nihil-retro-cool visuality.

Glitchead draws heavily from Armand’s previous publication, Vampyr, which uses similar characters, as well as themes and overall form of typography and graphic presentation, but Glitchhead is more condensed and streamlined. Publishing it with The Miskatonic Virtual University, who largely work in the field of accelerationist philosophy, mythopoesis, hyperstition, and now also progressive poetics, was a match made in purgatory, as Armand extends the boundaries of what we can consider “philo-fiction” in the best sense and lets language irrupt into the philosopher’s grove from the outside in.

Artist Michael Rowland considers Glitchead “a prepossessing, necessary, perfect book on an impossible love, grinning a toothy grin in blood-rain, running up the cul-de-sac after that one final, delirious, electric ice-cream and proving beyond proof that there will never be an end to the amount of things we can say.”2 There will never be an end to the amount of things we can say… And as language of power relinquishes nothing, it is very refreshing to see Armand stick a fork in it and give it a twist.

Go ahead, gouge it – see what comes out.

1.Richard Marshall, “Review of Louis Armand’s The Combinations,” 3:AM Magazine (16 Aug 2016, accessed 8 Aug 2021) < http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/review-of-louis-armands-the-combinations/>

2. Michael Rowland, facebook post (28 July 2021).

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