"Literature transmits incontrovertible condensed experience…from generation to generation. In this way literature becomes the living memory of a nation."
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Winner of the Magnesia Litera prize for prose
Culture, history, language, and indeed the living memory of a nation fuse in Jiří Hájíček's Rustic Baroque and in the additional stories included in this unique volume. (Preview a sample here.)
Set in South Bohemia about a decade after the Velvet Revolution, Rustic Baroque recalls the tumult in the countryside during the 1950s collectivization of agriculture, sheds light upon the torn social fabric in the decades to follow, and characterizes how Czech people of all generations struggle to come to grips with the unresolved remnants of their past in the years since totalitarian communists were driven from power in 1989. The story combines drama and mystery with history, architecture and a little romance against a background that is the natural beauty of Southern Bohemia. The characters struggle to resolve their feelings of guilt, thirst for revenge and desire to forgive. In the original Czech, Rustic Baroque (Selský baroko) was awarded the Magnesia Litera prize as the Best Czech Novel for 2005.
In this distinctive book, Hájíček's novel is complemented by four stories from his collection The Wooden Knife. The translator has added a brief introduction and annotated the novel to enhance the reading experience for English-language readers. This makes Czech culture and language more accessible to readers, who immerse themselves in the scenes, emotions, and bittersweet memories of a past that yet lingers just below the surface of Czech society today. To read Rustic Baroque is to step into the living memory of the nation.
The book is therefore a must-read for Czech language and cultural enthusiasts and anyone who seeks to connect with the country on an intimate level. Indeed, in combination with the Czech language original (published by Host) Rustic Baroque makes an excellent reader for those who are learning Czech or for Czech speakers wishing to improve their English.
"Unaffectedly written, and translated with wonderful explanatory notes for non-Czechs by Gale A Kirking, Rustic Baroque is a gorgeous and lyrical mystery about trust, about the past, and about the secret pain that can lie beneath the sunniest summer idyll." –From Booktrust
"...wonderfully told, slowly revealing more information and taking many twists and turns" -From A Common Reader
"Hájíček … has successfully discovered an extraordinary technique for portraying traditional subject matter. The result is prose written with exceptional feeling for the poetry of the countryside, observed from a historical perspective while commingling the present with the past." –Aleš Haman, Lidové noviny (on the Czech original)
Seeking to understand tragic but beautiful Bosnia and Hercegovina, Gale A. Kirking drove down from his home in the Czech Republic to take a good look around. The book details his travels and conversations during 1998 and 1999 with shopkeepers, pensioners, taxi drivers, common soldiers, farmers, policemen and refugees. The narrative provides insights to ordinary people living in a moral twilight that is neither the darkness of war nor the full light of peace, where truth, goodness and fairness are not easily distinguished from falsehood, evil and injustice.
Untangling Bosnia and Hercegovina is available worldwide in paperback and now Kindle through Amazon.com.
"Highly recommended, insightful, informative reading"
–Midwest Book Review, March 2000
"…provides insights into ordinary people living in a moral twilight that is neither the darkness of war nor the full light of peace, where truth, goodness and fairness are not easily distinguished from falsehood, evil and injustice."
–From the book's cover