Eländet Wretchedness

Malmö, Sweden. A cellist meets a spun-out junkie. That could have been me. His mind starts to glitch between his memories and the avant-garde music he loves, and he descends into his past, hearing all over again the chaotic song of his youth. He emerges to a different sound, heading for a crash.

From sprawling housing projects to underground clubs and squat parties, Wretchedness is a blistering trip through the underbelly of Europe’s cities. Powered by a furious, unpredictable beat, this is a paean to brotherhood, to those who didn’t make it however hard they fought, and a visceral indictment of the poverty which took them.

With its rhythmic, mesmerising flow and intensity of form, Tichý’s novel explores the possibility of social mobility and the ambivalent desire to escape your origins, asking how to love your neighbour when that neighbour is an addict, a criminal—wretched.

Featured in The Guardian’s ‘Great, new European authors’ 2020


Winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize UK 2021
International Booker Prize nominee 2021
Eyvind Johnson Award Sweden 2018
August Prize Nominee (Best novel of the year) Sweden 2016
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  • “/…/ (a) very original and skillfully written work. In my opinion, in literature, the most important thing is not the topics it addresses, but how it is done – and Wretchedness does it in a magnificent way.”

    Przekroj, Poland

  • “The polyphony of voices is tightly interwoven /…/ arranged into a narrative resembling a complex musical composition /…/ The book ends abruptly, as an avant-garde piece of music might, but the vibrations continue to fill the air.”

    The Guardian, UK

  • “There is a kind of unholy music in this powerful, punchy, perceptive novel.”

    Daily Mail, UK

  • “Visceral /…/ a fascinating read, the real-life details of which further bolster the fiction /…/ This is nightmarish, impressionistic literature whose disjointed sentences have an associative flow that accumulates to a shocking whole.”

    Irish Times, Ireland

  • Wretchedness is sensitive and compelling.”

    Financial Times, UK

  • “In virtuosically rendered language, full of the poetry of spoken word, the innovation of contemporary slang, and the philosophical verve of great literature, Tichý gives a voice to the lost ‘brothers’ of his youth.”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

  • “What can a survivor do with their history? Can you be loyal to the friends you left behind? Andrzej Tichý turns this wretched reality into something poignant. His polyphonic novel has a rough, rhythmic melody and a ferocious rage.”

    August Prize Jury, Sweden

  • “A blurry tornado of voices and timelines, this short novel unspools over eight paragraphs of run-on sentences swirling around the memories of a cellist raised on an estate outside Malmö /…/ the novel builds to an unexpectedly heart-stopping finale, with a frame-breaking time-slip that invites us to reconsider everything we’ve just read as a stylistically radical expression of survivor’s guilt.’”

    Book of the Day The Observer, UK

Photo: Carla Orrego Veliz Andrzej Tichý
  • Literary
Reading material

Swedish edition

English edition

Rights sold

Arab World, Sefsafa

Denmark, Basilisk

Poland, Pauza

Russia, Exmo

Sweden, Albert Bonniers

UK, And Other Stories (World English)

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