Literature after Radio: Tuning in to Ivo Michiels’s Alfacyclus

Yasco Horsman


This essay analyzes Belgian author Ivo Michiels’s works for radio (collected in Samuel, o Samuel (1973)), as well as his prose writings of the 1960s and the 1970s (the Alfa Cycle (1963-1979)). Taking its cue from media theorist Friedrich Kittler’s suggestion that the introduction of new analogue media such as the gramophone and the radio had a profound influence on modernism’s relation to language, the essay argues that the stylistic rupture in the development of Michiels’s œuvre that occurred in the late 1960s should be understood in relation to the author’s preoccupation with the medium of radio. By the 1970s, the radio play became for Michiels the paragone art form – the art that served as a model for his own writing – because radio captures and broadcasts disembodied yet corporeal voices. It is precisely the voice (rather than language) that became the central concern of Michiels’s Alfacyclus [The Alfa Cycle], and that plays a crucial role in the author’s understanding of militarism and fascism.


Ivo Michiels; Modernism; Media Theory; Alfa-Cycle; Radio; Radiophonics; Voice; Fascism; Intermediality; Literature and Psychoanalysis

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