Andrzej Tichý


Finalist for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize

The stories in Purity take the reader through cities and suburbs, apartments and streets, to find characters struggling to survive in modern society: a man has an outburst on a bus; a fugitive finds insight in a colour wheel; a social realist kills his friend with a hammer; a thief finds himself in books. And cleaners reluctantly go on cleaning.

With gravity and humour, against the backdrop of a violent civilization, people are depicted as fallen, or waiting to fall, rendered by Tichý with the fury, compassion and emotional complexity of Kendrick Lamar.


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EBook: £11.99

More Info

  • You can find a list of Andrzej Tichý’s favourite books of 2021 on, here.
  • Andrzej Tichý and translator Nichola Smalley were interviewed by The Booker Prize team when Wretchedness was longlisted in 2021 – you can read the interview here.
Translator: Nichola Smalley
Original language: Swedish
Format: Ebook
Publication date: 4 June 2024
ISBN: 9781913505981
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505998
Availability: World English



‘Purity is a strong and literary challenging book, emotionally charged, intricate and ceaselessly fascinating, poetic and tender, even in its dark way humouristic, through all its roughness, deep grief, blood and grime.’


‘When Tichý combines his concrete social realism with falling in to hypnotic flow of consciousness, it become completely brilliant. As sharp as Tichý depicts the pain, he also writes of an interpersonal tenderness and love. And a powerful resistance.’

Svenska Dagbladet

‘A feverish kind of despair about the eternal machine of abuse of power thrusts Tichý’s disparate voices into an affecting whole.’


‘As in all his best books, Tichý is an entertainer. Funny and drastic. Smart and tough. Never letting the tragedy become comedy. It is the style, between elegant novel prose and the colloquial, that lends the fragmentary stories a glimpse of something almost cheerful; the laughter when, staring into the abyss, you realise it is staring right back at you.’

Dagens Nyheter

‘How something can be so powerful and precise at the same time is hard to comprehend. But as a depiction of man’s conditions on society’s wage lowering labour market, it is brilliant. The truth is that prose is rarely as refined as this.’

Praise for Wretchedness

'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.'⁠ Anna Aslanyan, The Guardian

'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.' Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

'There is a kind of unholy music in this powerful, punchy, perceptive novel.' Eithne Farry, Daily Mail

'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.' Anthony Cummins, Book of the Day The Observer

'Wretchedness is a social novel whose descent into hardship is haunting, and whose lead character is an example of the hazy line between surviving a lifestyle or falling prey to it.' ⁠Foreword Reviews

'Graphic depictions of crime, racism, poverty, drug use and violence are rendered through paragraph-free slabs of text that propulsively veer between voices and minds, times and locations. As well as the Swedish estates, the novel draws on Tichý's experiences of living in Hamburg and London to paint a picture of a pan-European community of the excluded passing through squats, underground clubs, petty scams and cash-only employment. [...] Tichý's early creative life centered on music and there is a sense of musicality inherent Wretchedness.' ⁠Nicholas Wroe, Guardian

'An inventive, linguistically adept experiment.'⁠Kirkus Reviews

'An utterly phenomenal read: a masterclass in hyper-modernist experimentation, voice and form. Embracing the bitter realities of addiction, prejudice and inner-city turmoil, Tichý's rapid prose roves internal dialogues, places, vernaculars and circumstances to expose a singular, absorbed world struggling to keep itself afloat. Through a complex network of characters, friends and strangers we're made to think about the ways the human spirit can fall into despair, its ability to establish resolve, to love and remember, and the myriad philosophies it leaves us with.⁠'Anthony Anaxagorou

'What can a survivor do with their history? Can you be loyal to the friends you left behind? Andrzej Tichy´ turns this wretched reality into something poignant. His polyphonic novel has a rough, rhythmic melody and a ferocious rage.' August Prize Judges

'Tichý writes a delirious, detailed prose, studded with Malmö slang and contemporary verve. The language pours forth over the pages like a contaminated river, full of filth, despair and anxiety, an associative flow of long, disjointed, almost endless sentences.' Eva Johansson, Svenska Dagbladet

'Wretchedness is a wild intoxicant of language, momentum, and voice. Andrzej Tichý is a master of despair.' ⁠Patrick Cottrell

'Some kind of holy/unholy meeting of Thomas Bernhard and The Geto Boys, Wretchedness is an anguished, brutal, beautiful piece of phantasmagoric-realism, an act of remembrance through imagination, animated by rhythm, and pouring past you with the inevitability of the tide coming in. Brilliantly written, superbly translated, this small book packs in more sadness and moments of epiphany, more hopelessness and hope, more surviving - more life! - than most writers manage in a whole career. Remarkable.' Will Ashon

'The past is so close behind in Nichola Smalley's translation of Tichý's precise maelstrom of memory, music and survival - on the margins of this and every city - that you can smell the chemicals on its breath. There's nothing to lose and too much to lose; no escape and all our escapes. Keep going. Read it and be thankful for Andrzej Tichý.' Tony White

'A bravura, urgent head-trip of a novel, replete with compassion, rage, and gimlet-eyed observation on every page. Essential reading - us English-speakers are lucky to have Tichý's work available in translation at last.' Luke Kennard

'A powerful, voice-driven novel that remains in the mind long after the final page. Tichý brings everything to life: circumstances and people we'd rather ignore, with a flow resembling music.' Derek Owusu

'The pleasures of this book are immediate, brilliant and deeply unreasonable. Every person and every thought is intensely present. It demeans nothing.' Caleb Klaces

'Wretchedness is a red-blooded ode to the most invisible and unwanted in society - immigrant workers, the homeless, addicts, and those born into the hardest of circumstances. Tichý's gasping, polyphonic prose flies through time and space and drug-induced states, flinging us between disturbing recollections, hopeless presents, and deferred or tainted futures - all connected by bittersour camaraderies and the remedying power of music.' Jen Calleja

Books by Andrzej Tichý