Sascha Engel

Sascha Engel – collection Twenty-One Computations

Engel (he/his) is an author of experimental prose and poetry, founder of the Ireland-based journal Strukturriss, and somehow a corporate trainer, too. After pursuing an M.A. in Political Theory from the University of Frankfurt and a PhD in Political Economy from Virginia Tech, Sascha’s interest in things other than economics was awakened by the chance find of an ‘ancient technology’ section in a bookstore in Corvallis, Oregon, and he’s never looked back since. Find him reading up on computations, experimenting with non-standard lettering systems, or just wandering about in Cork City, Ireland.

Twitter: @ThinkContinuum Web:


Introduction to Twenty-One Computations

Early computer handbooks, written in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, are a uniquely intriguing kind of literature. On the surface, they are intended to help their readers navigate the intricacies of recalcitrant machines, yet offer few of the compromises we have come to expect of handbooks for our machinery. Having been written in an era before the paradigm of ‘user-friendliness’, and before the advent of graphic interfaces, it may at times appear as though these early handbooks are more intended to make their readers adjust to the hardware before them, then vice versa.

Yet this is exactly what makes them so intriguing. Little inclined to bend to their users’ will and convenience, early computing machines rather present series of challenges. Mastering them means adjusting to them. It is not man that tames the machine: the machine tames man. Early computers are ongoing negotiations of the human-machine boundary. Their handbooks, consequently, are documentations of such negotiations.

Preview of Twenty-One Computations

Words of Praise

“Engel’s bold and innovative work pushes against the artificial boundaries of poetry and language, inviting the reader to develop a new relationship between machine and mankind. He deploys a number of experimental cut-up techniques, or “computations”, within the found text of old computer manuals. The effect is startling, original, discomfiting at times, yet also strangely hypnotic. Where do we place ourselves within these instructions for computer processing? Who, or what, is being processed? Or indeed, instructed? Engel’s exciting work poses these questions; but it is for the reader to decide.”

JP Seabright, Experimental Writing Editor for Full House Lit. Mag.

“In Engel’s Twenty-One Computations, the logical structures of computation resolve in an aesthetic play between form and content. This collection marshals computer science to subvert and find beauty beyond hermeneutic saturation and intelligibility. That is, it suggests that computing is something more than zero and one.”

     - Emma Stamm, Visiting Assistant Professor, Villanova University, Department of Philosophy

“Twenty-one Computations is a brilliant and baffling visualisation of the connection between man and machine, with beautiful poems which tell us as much about how people interact with the world as about computers. With each reading I found another question of how we interact with the digital world, and another thing to love about this unique pamphlet. I love it.”

         - Helen Bowie, editor of tattiezine and poet of chaotic things.
%d bloggers like this: