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A European classic of experimental fiction

The Alpha Cycle

Ivo Michiels

‘The Alpha Cycle’ is one of the most overwhelming reading experiences in postwar literature. This five-volume series owes its legendary status to Michiels’ unsurpassed use of crystal-clear, almost primitive language. The first two volumes in particular, ‘Book Alpha’ (1963) and ‘Orchis Militaris’ (1968), have lost nothing of their punch.

A language experiment never before seen in Flanders
De Standaard

‘Book Alpha’ is a book of doubt, in which Michiels assimilates his war experiences in the character of the soldier who, under threat of imminent war, expresses existential uncertainty. Guilt feelings and the search for an individual identity are central themes in the book. The soldier reflects on his past life, unearthing a jumble of childhood and adolescent memories. From these snippets and snapshots in time emerges a mental portrait of someone who, thrown back and forth between indecision and resistance, must continue to live in uncertainty.

In ‘Orchis Miltaris,’ the focus shifts to the essence of warfare itself. The human figure disintegrates completely. Humanity is no more than an amorphous collective, subject to incomprehensible and irreversible destructive processes.

The books ‘Exit’, ‘Samuel, oh Samuel’ and ‘Dixi(t)’ complete this fascinating cycle.

He bursts from every page and every line is brimming with a zest for life
Peter Verhelst