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19 article(s) translated from Czech

New Art

Václavek attempts to outline the ways in which developments in engineering and socialized labor practices are integral models for contemporary art practice.  Translation and design © 2016 by Meghan Forbes. All rights reserved.

Travel by Train

Translation © 2015 by Meghan Forbes. All rights reserved.

From “The Year of Pearls”

The Year of Pearls tells the story of Lucie, a married woman in her late thirties whose life is thrown into disarray when she embarks on a heady, yearlong love affair with a younger woman. In this extract the narrator, still living with her husband, finally confronts the long-suppressed nature of her sexuality.  She made up her mind. There had to be some clues, signs, or leads somewhere around here. Some portents of things to come, some verifiable cracks appearing in the ground before...

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...

The Cherry Tree

Leoš was convinced nothing else could happen, that the worst was behind him, that it had died along with his past life and now he was all right. It was important to be all right, not to be afraid of the next day and the next night. Just go out and buy a nice bottle of Hungarian wine, Egri Bikavér maybe, drink it alone or with a girl he would usher out of his all right with a smile the morning after. A smile, that’s all I’ve got, but what I gave you is plenty. Three...

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...

from “Angel”

The Windows Butch blinked. But it wouldn't go away. He could see it, the blood, like a red honeycomb, like a membrane, in his left eye. Then in his right. Before, the blood had poured from the sky, falling into his eyes. He'd had an urge to recoil, to curl himself up around the red spot spreading quickly across his retina, to envelop it in his muscles, tendons, bones, hair, everything that was undoubtedly him, and dissolve the vision inside him somehow. He soon realized it was...

from “I Can’t Stand Still”: An Interview with Jáchym Topol

Weiss: What was your first time out of the country? Topol: My first time was in East Germany with my mom. She took my brother and me to the seaside there. That change—all of a sudden by the sea in the GDR instead of in Poříčí1 as usual—happened thanks to my mother's coworkers. Apparently they explained that you're supposed to go away on vacation with your kids. That ended the era of staying at home or with our grandma. Vacations at home...

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...

V. Samsara

I have always been intrigued by the fact that cows in India are sacred. Unmolested, they roam the streets of towns and villages. In some parts they have a bell round their neck and a jasmine topknot on their head, sometimes they are painted. But mostly they are wretched. Gaunt, filthy and sick, they munch away on pounds of rotting waste, eating up slops, paper, or bits of material they find along the wayside. Drivers, rickshaw-men and pedestrians break their necks avoiding the cows...

How I Went to School

My mother said to me: "You must go to school, or they will lock up your father." There were five of us children at home, four girls and one boy. The eldest was my sister, then me, one year behind her. But I was stronger than her. And naughtier. So my mother said: "You will be the one who goes to school, because at home you only make trouble." My sister was to stay at home with the little children. She carried them around on her back, washed their nappies, wiped their noses and their...

from The Opportune Moment, 1855

Patrik Ouředník's forthcoming novel imagines one of the most striking phenomena of the nineteenth century: the founding of "free" settlements in North and South America by Europeans aspiring to a "brighter tomorrow." These literally hundreds of utopian experiments had one trait in common-the rejection of both social and political revolution as advocated by communists, as well as by socialist and social Catholic reformers. The book, to be published in the fall in Prague and...

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