Patrick Langley

Published 21 March 2018 (UK) | 4 September 2018 (US) | French paperback with flaps, 200 pages
Longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2019

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Brothers Jackson and Frank live on the margins of a big urban sprawl. From abandoned tower blocks to gleaming skyscrapers, their city is brutal, beautiful and divided. As anti-government protests erupt across the teeming metropolis, the brothers sail in search of the Red Citadel and its promise of a radical new way of life. A striking portrait of the precarity of modern urban living, and of the fierce bonds that grow between brothers, Patrick Langley’s debut Arkady is a brilliant coming-of-age novel, as brimming with vitality as the city itself.

‘Thick with smoky atmosphere and beautifully controlled – this is a vivid and very fine debut.’
— Kevin Barry, author of City of Bohane

‘Patrick Langley’s Arkady is a strange trip – luminescent, jagged and beautiful. A debut novel that twists, compels, descends and soars. I highly recommend it.’
— Jenni Fagan, author of The Panopticon

Arkady is a utopian project: not the top-down kind that never works, but the bottom-up kind that (in this case anyway) works so well it reclaims something of the world. It’s hand-built, beautifully, from loose memories, salvaged people, and wild blooms of the psychogeographical sublime. Tense, vivid and humane, this novel gives us not only a dark future but also – over the horizon, past the next riverbend, through that hole in the fence – a chance of saving ourselves from it.’
— Ned Beauman, author of Boxer, Beetle

‘Langley’s invented metropolis was a joy to spend time in. In my visual imagination, it looked as if it had been half-painted by L. S. Lowry and finished off by H. R. Giger. And the ambience was a little bit Stalker, and a little bit Tekkonkinkreet. But then at the heart of it all was this complex, tender relationship between brothers, and Langley’s writing – which somehow managed to be both unembellished and evocative.’
— Sara Baume, author of A Line Made by Walking

‘The Romulus and Remus of a refugee nation embark upon a drift across livid cities, liberatory canals and compromised occupations in a parallel present mere millimetres from our own. Langley gives to the reader the taste of the Molotov fumes and the bloody heft of the personal-political in this propulsive, acid fable, a dérive for the age of urbex. How can the orphaned subject escape the surveillance state? Read on to find out. We, also, are in Arcadia.’
— Mark Blacklock, author of I’m Jack

‘[A] haunting and brilliant debut.’
— Luke Brown, author of My Biggest Lie

‘A distinctly post-Brexit novel, Arkady is set in an unnamed city that both is and isn’t London, thick with the atmosphere of the riots of 2011, and the stricken, devastated aura of the days after the Grenfell fire. It is oblique, and bleak: it is never quite clear what has happened or is happening, what is it about our world that has finally broken or overflowed…. But there is always a flutter of hope in the dark, and in Arkady it dwells in the unshakeable brotherly love between the novel’s two heroes, Jackson and Frank [whose] relationship is so beautifully etched … Arkady suggests that we’ll build our own arcadias out of the dreams that haunt us, both threatening and protective.’
— Lauren Elkin, The Guardian

Arkady raises questions about what happens after capitalism finally collapses…. It’s difficult not to think of JG Ballard throughout, but Langley’s unforgiving urban scapes also recall the sound of dubstep pioneer Burial or early pirate-station grime. The prose crackles with energy as the narrative follows the constant movement by placing the reader on a well-oiled tracking dolly, often zooming out to remind us of the bigger picture. Langley is a highly visual writer and Arkady an assured allegorical debut about a near-future Britain that is potentially only a recession or two away.’
— Ben Myers, New Statesman

‘Though the plot remains firmly within a vice of gritty reality, the prose at times takes on a mythical quality, as man and nature coalesce in a seamless union … These are the moments where Arcadia, that utopian idyll, feels within reach…. Brotherly love emerges as the sweet aftertaste of the novel, precisely because Langley evokes their relationship with such verisimilitude.’
Matt Janney, Culture Trip

‘[A] timely evocation of social strife at a time of increasing political polarisation. The novel’s preoccupation with the invisible socio-economic topography of the city (“maps of ownership, maps of property, maps of power”) will resonate with anyone who has pondered the vexed question of gentrification and housing inequality…. Langley’s bleak vision of a city effectively at war with its inhabitants – on behalf of the property moguls and financial speculators who own it – is a pointed extrapolation of the present state of things.’
The Irish Times

Arkady traces the lives of two brothers from early childhood, following their treacherous journey together through forbidding urban wastelands, towards some kind of redemption or hope. It’s a gripping story, and Langley’s rich language and profound empathy combine to make Arkady an incredibly powerful novel.’
— Maya Kalev, Dazed

‘Langley avoids totalizing language. You can see him scalpelling out what over-serves, offloading words too bloated with connotation.… The city’s name is never mentioned, attuning readers instead to the unique texture of its hinterlands: crushed glass and asphalt, gnawed chicken bones and scrubgrass, the filthy waterways crisscrossing it in secret, another mazy layer to its labyrinth. …  Foreign to the literary Londons of before, it’s a London that feels faithful to the one that I know now: one where squatters can occupy millionaires’ mansions, kipping on the marble floors and unfurling antifa flags from the balconies; one where the empty lot you raved in one week is bulldozed, built over the next; one where, in spite of its weighty history, traces of habitation can vanish as quickly as if they were in water.’
— Alex Quicho, C Magazine

‘A prophetic tale of urban dystopia … In Arkady … the protagonists use the power of their imagination to remake the world, and they find solace not by dreaming of another place, but by looking closer at the city itself. They reimagine its forgotten and overlooked places.’
Matthew Turner, Elephant

‘Patrick Langley’s debut novel Arkady is a veiled vent about the housing crisis, a clever tantrum about our immediate future. It never quite situates itself in a specific year, instead remaining temporally hazy. On first reading, I understood it as our imminent apocalypse, softened to the point of credibility: a subdued economic and ecological sci-fi reminiscent of Ballard. But on second reading, it seemed to just be the world, our world: a world of dickhead men yelling at women on the streets, ice-cream trucks on hot days, and drunk party-goers spilling onto pavements.’ 
Sylvia Secci, Oxonian Review

Praise from Twitter:

‘A gorgeous novel… A livid and visionary brotherly love story set among our ruins. I loved it.’
— Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers

‘Grim but excellent.’
— M. John Harrison, author of You Should Come With Me Now

‘I haven’t been able to stop thinking about [Arkady] – such a tender, hopeful tale of brotherhood and belonging, set against vividly imagined urban topographies. I haven’t read anything like it in ages.’
— Sophie Mackintosh, author of the The Water Cure

Partisan Hotel interview Patrick Langley

Patrick Langley’s first novel, Arkady, was longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Deborah Rogers Writers Prize. The Variations is his second novel.