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Articles tagged "Czech Republic"

Not Necessarily About Politics: Contemporary Czech Prose

The Czechs are cultural overachievers. In film, photography, theater, architecture, music, art, they punch above their weight, with an impact far beyond what you’d expect from a nation of ten million people. The same goes for literature. Authors writing in Czech have always had plenty to say, and plenty of ways to say it, but the best-known writers in English translation have historically been those whose work is viewed as political, or at least as having an underpinning of politics....

This Time Last Year

Several times that night I forgot her name and she had to repeat it to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. The reason her name kept slipping my mind was because I had to pay such close attention to what she was saying in order not to get tripped up by her string of rapid questions. She was excited, but not over-the-top. She didn’t linger on any one subject but just kept moving forward nonstop, hopscotching from one important topic to the next. The pub we were in was dark...

from “Down, Beast!”

In 1952 Communist Czechoslovakia, a precocious thirteen-year-old from Brno is abducted by unknown assailants and brought to a secret location for what he believes is a special military training program for gifted youth. Instead his mission turns out to be tied to much darker ends, beginning with Stalinist show trials and ending with the day we now know as 9/11. It was essentially something like a cloister. Except the building wasn’t square or rectangular, but perfectly round. In the...

from “Disappear”

In this section, from the first of three interconnected novellas in Disappear, we listen in as the seven-year-old Jakub (nicknamed “Kuba” or “Kubík”) describes life just before and after the accident that leads to his family’s slow disintegration. Leg I didn’t grow more than three centimeters over the next year. My mom started crying one time when they measured me at the doctor’s. I tried not to see. It made me feel sorry. I’m just...

from “Guardians of the Public Good”

The narrator of Guardians of the Public Good (2010), Petra Hůlová’s sixth novel, is a young girl who finds herself at odds with the rest of Czech society after the collapse of the East bloc in 1989, seeing it as a betrayal of the values of communism, which she wholeheartedly believes in. In this excerpt from the beginning of the novel, before the so-called Velvet Revolution, she describes how her family was chosen to live in a model worker’s town, named after the...

Bow and Arrow

“Is there anything you want to say about it?” Petr breaks the ice. His sentence fogs the windshield a little. But has no other effect. The patch of condensation quickly shrinks until it’s gone. Gone, along with the meaning and purpose of his words. Silence. The soft, constant, sound of the engine, the hollow movement of the gears, the sigh of a passing car. Next to him, in his peripheral vision, his son. Leaning against the window, head flung back, twisted; lips pale, shut...

from “Kobold”

Radka Denemarková‘s Kobold is made up of two loosely connected stories, run head to tail. This extract, which opens the longer story, “Excesses of Tenderness,” describes the first encounter between the novel’s two central characters: Michael Kobold, a charismatic but violent creature, half-man and half-water goblin, and his future wife, Hella, a gifted young girl from a middle-class Jewish family in 1930s Prague. It is narrated by their daughter, who has just...

from “Germans”

In the midst of World War II, Klara, from Germany, takes a job teaching schoolchildren in a small, mostly German-speaking town in Czechoslovakia; her duties include policing the children’s use of Czech. Language In March Klara overheard some children speaking Czech. It startled her. She was just going out for a walk when she suddenly overheard Czech; unsure what to do, she stepped back into the corridor and waited until the children had gone. A week later, she decided to visit...

The Prodigal Father

Tomáš Zmeškal’s father was a Congolese intellectual who traveled to the capital of Communist Czechoslovakia in 1959 to win support for the soon-to-be independent Republic of Congo, but never made Prague his home. In Socrates at the Equator: Family Reportages (2013), Zmeškal uses a mix of reportage, memoir, and journal entries to describe his search for his father and his encounters with his father’s family in Congo itself. A writer can rarely stop...

from “Talespinner”

Holy shit, hear that roar? Yeah, that’s the bora. Who wants to go out for groceries in weather like this? And we don’t even know the forecast since the freaking radio doesn’t work. Not a crackle. We’ll have to go to the market either way, though, at least get some tomatoes, cucumbers, hunk of cheese, we’re all out again, some toilet paper would also come in handy, what with the old hag holding out on us. Might as well get some salami and a melon while...

Patrick Ourednik’s “Case Closed”

Let’s start with a question: What do you think is the biggest-selling Czech book of all time? Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being? The Good Soldier Svejk, by Jaroslav Hasek? Something by Havel, Hrabal, Klima, or Skvorecky? Well, the answer is Patrik Ourednik’s slim and odd anti-novel, Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, an accumulation of errata, statistics, and technical digressions that somehow manages to become both a gripping read and a...

Prague

Let’s not talk about Prague. We spent a lover’s weekend there, Madeleine and I, around Easter, in an almost windowless attic room which gave the impression of being in some tawdry flophouse, with its mezzanine floor and half-closed blinds, dark, dusty, a bit smelly (we left an envelope with a couple of deutsche marks on the coffee table for the little racketeer who’d sublet it to us when we left). And yet the trip had started off well enough. In Berlin, full of hope...

Polish


Czech


An Odd Story

I glanced at the wreath against the tombstone and was amazed to read my own name on it: TO MY SECOND MOTHER—FROM KAREL HRABĚ. In our family there had never been anybody by that name. My father, Abraham Grafi, was the owner of a fairly respectable fabric store located on the oblong main square of a district town near Moravská Ostrava. There my mother, Sarah, spent her days in the cashier's booth. Every crown of the daily gross sales passed through her short...

The Golem in the Mirror

I dreamed of Prague at night. It looked the way each of us to whom the words "Old City" speak at least a little would imagine. I knew the Golem had returned, and I ran through the streets hoping to find it. The rain had just passed and "the wet eaves glimmered like sabers," I thought to myself in my sleep. Ahead of me flickered a yellow body, obviously soft, like something made of dough. I was surprised how quickly it moved, and I dashed down a narrow alley to cut off its path. The Golem...

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