"Generation X" in the Czech Republic
From the World Press Review:
Review of Sestra by Jáchym Topol
He is sometimes called the youngest classical writer of the Czech literary world, but make no mistake, novelist and poet Jachym Topol, 39, is authentically punk.
While his award-winning novel Sestra (City Sister Silver, 1994) shows influences of Dante’s Inferno and Meyrink’s The Golem, it also speaks the Russian and Czech slang of the streets, achieving the effect of raving, “raw post-Babylonian”—in the words of his protagonist, Potok—prophecy.
Topol, the son of Josef Topol, a renowned playwright, began writing in the literary ghetto of the samizdat—underground literature published unofficially during the communist period. Topol knew at that time that none of the state publishing houses would print his work, which dealt with the difficulty of living under communism, so he didn’t even bother trying. Instead, he became an activist. At 24, he signed his name to Charter 77, the declaration written in 1977 that called on the government to respect human rights. He was jailed numerous times for his anticommunist activities."
For more reading, please go to the original website
Review of Sestra by Jáchym Topol
by Caroline Kovtun in CER ce-review.org:
"A post-1989 novel
As one of the most powerful, and only, works of post-1989 writing to examine the conditions of the tumultuous transition period, the novel was a veritable blast onto the Czech literary scene. In its length and weighty content, Sestra tore away from the artistic pack and saw critics scrambling to make sense of it. Its reception was mostly favorable, but there were a few who had their reservations. Some of their issues included inscrutability of the plot, violence and darkness of the atmosphere and the frenzied word pacing.
Sestra seems to have confounded its admirers and critics alike, for the two sides appear to love or hate the novel for basically the same reasons. Its density and chaos have been taken by its sympathizers to reflect the social reality of the period immediately following the Velvet Revolution, with its fluctuations and free-market euphoria, ultimately leading to disillusionment and corruption. Sestra captures the irony, joy, confusion and gruesomeness inherent in the outlook of young Czechs during this period. Topol was one of the first of these young Czechs (he was in his very early thirties when he wrote Sestra) to address his generation's attitude toward the new times, and he was the only one to do so in such a creative and epic manner.
[. . .]
Zucker's translation merits praise not only for attempting to convey Sestra in all its complexity but also for largely succeeding at it. He has managed to preserve the speed of the narrative and kept the translation faithful to the original's eccentricity and modernity. In addition, Zucker provides valuable endnotes to the text, explaining the historical and linguistic references which Western eyes would otherwise not detect. There are certain things he did omit from annotation, such as "Bog" and "droog," both Russian words meaning "God" and "friend" respectively, and rightfully so, as referencing too many terms would have slowed down the reading of the text to a cumbersome pace."
For more reading, including Chapter one of the novel, please go to the original website
Jáchym Topol. Sestra. Trans. as City Suster Silver (1994)
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