The book of 2022
The culmination of a long tradition
The organizers of the Lidové noviny survey thus compile a kind of evaluation of the readings of Czech intellectuals independent of official literary awards, allowing readers to discover interesting titles that have escaped the attention of the general public.
The Book of the Year survey has a long tradition. The first survey was started in 1928 by the newspaper “Lidové noviny” and continued until today with a break in 1949-1991. In 1928, the first winner of the poll was André Maurois’ novel Les Silences du colonel Bramble, and the following year Erich Maria Remarque and his pacifist bestseller A l’Ouest won the poll, nothing new.
Dramatic fate of Czech nuns
Sometimes research yields surprising results. But this time there was no surprise, because the first place was taken by a book that had already won the national literature prize. This is a novel by Katerina Tučková Bíla voda – White Water, a literary fresco tracing the modern history of Czech religious congregations. The writer, who has already won several literary awards, said this about his novel:
“The first impulse to write this novel is what I found in the documents about political prisoners, but also in the documents about nuns. I already knew the fate of the nuns who were tried or interned by the communist regime, but I could not admit that the fate of the nuns and their resistance to the tyranny was almost passed over in silence. It seemed unfair to me, because the fate of these women was very dramatic. I came to identify with these nuns to some extent, and their assaults on womanhood seemed to me all the more deplorable. »
Frankly, it is impossible to sum up this magnificent 688-page novel published by Host and considered the main work of Czech literature in recent years. Soon we will dedicate a special program to him.
So, let’s move on to other cases that stand out in Lidové Noviny’s research. The second place is occupied by a new book, newly translated from English. This is the famous ambiguous poem The Waste Land – La Terre by Thomas Stearns Eliot, an American-born English poet and Nobel Prize laureate who lived between 1888 and 1965. it has already been translated into Czech several times in the past, but its new translation, which we owe to Petr Onufer and the Argo publishing house, is considered obvious. According to critics, the translator managed to transfer the endlessly complex structure of this work into another language and made it possible for the Czech reader to fully enjoy the values of this poetry. Translator and publisher Petr Onufer wants to continue publishing TS Eliot’s other works, but he is well aware of the difficulties of such a task:
“Publishing Eliot’s works would be the realization of my personal dream as a translator and publisher. That would be unusual. However, we can still publish his poems, his poetic writings, which are not so voluminous, but his critical writings and correspondence are said to be about 15,000 pages. So it would be a very long journey. Therefore, I think that this dream will not come true. But it would still be nice. »
Who knows, perhaps the success of the translation of The Uncertain Land will rekindle TS Eliot’s interest in the Czech Republic and help in the decision to translate the author into Czech and publish his other works.
Notice an almost forgotten tragedy
It was Karin Lednická’s novel “Jivotice” that took third place and therefore symbolically won a bronze medal in the “Book of the Year 2022” survey. Životice is the name of a village that is now in the Czech Republic, but located in Silesia. The Third Reich during World War II. In 1944, partisans in the region killed three members of the Gestapo. The repressions initiated by the German authorities were terrible and lasted almost until the end of the war. Later, the partially forgotten issue was misinterpreted by communist ideologues. It was while researching documents for another novel about this region that Karin Lednická discovered this dark page of local history and felt the need to drag it out of oblivion. He explains:
“In general, we don’t know much about the Životice case, because our region is quite far from the center and it is not generally noticed. Still, 36 innocent people who had nothing to do with this tragedy were shot in one morning. Other people became victims of repressions that started later. Therefore, we can say that the total number of victims of this tragic event is about one hundred. (…) Such tragedies are always caused by specific people, and this is the point of view I adopt. I’m not talking about the incident, but about the people affected. »
Thus, two women, Katerina Tučková and Karin Lednická, dominated the results of the “Book of the Year” survey with their novels on historical themes. Their success shows that this type of novel, which combines fact and fiction and is firmly based on real historical documents, is becoming more and more popular among readers.
The Czech reader is confronted with French literature
Let’s also add that there were several French authors among the writers and titles cited by the respondents. Readers especially appreciated Michel Houellebecq’s Anéantir, translated into Czech by Alan Beguivy, and Annie Ernauch’s memoir. Tomasz Havel translated the book of this Nobel Prize-winning author simply titled “Years” into Czech. Czech readers have not forgotten the French translator and editor Erika Abrams, who has been tirelessly translating and editing the complete works of the philosopher Ladislav Kliman (1878-1928) for years. Erika Abrams has already prepared the fifth volume of Ladislav Kliman’s complete works, published last year by Torst publications under the title Bel’letrie.