Petr PAZDERA PAYNE
Fiction writer and dramatist Petr Pazdera Payne was born in Prague on 28 of June 1960. He spent his childhood in the Jilemnice area, and studied at the Comenius Protestant Theological Faculty, Prague, and in 1989–92 was a minister in Kadaň and Chomutov. He has held many different jobs (ambulance man, stoker, tutor, health visitor, and lecturer at the Czech Technical University). In 1997 he founded the Medard publishing house. He lives in Prague and Sázava nad Sázavou.
The beginnings of Petr Payne’s literary career are linked with his dissident activities in Protestant circles during the 1980s. It was at that time that he started to use the samizdat pseudonym Pazdera and to write a series of one-act plays that he called Dramolety (Mini – Dramas). He also gained his first experience writing fiction in concise forms, usually parables, unobtrusive moral lessons and instructions, or modern religious apocrypha. He did not actually publish anything until the late 1990s, and it is no accident that all his books of fiction to date combine older writing with new, and present a cross-section of the genres and styles for which he has a natural talent. In all of them, we can see a distinctive generational trajectory and attempt to take stock of generational experience. In Nečekaný čekaný a jiné variace na staré biblické příběhy (The Unexpected Expected One and Other Variations on Old Biblical Stories) Payne demonstrated his ability to apply timeless biblical motifs in psychological scenes from later times, which are vivid and three-dimensional, though deliberately interpreted in programmatic terms. Critics have also praised the inventive skill with which Payne varies and adapts different biblical ‘texts-sources’ and the critic Josef Štochl has suggested that the most distinctive aspect of his writing method is his art of parataxis or ‘restrained attitude towards the course of events of the world’. Usually these sensitively composed stories involve the triumph of a hidden or revealed consciousness of the moral order, often both genuinely unexpected and expected at the same time. Since his debut, Payne’s fresh, spiritually urgent texts have been broadening the aesthetic and ethical spectrum of modern Czech fiction in an appealing way. In line with the need, or even demand, for this broadening of the spiritual horizons of the modern cultural community, Payne has produced a set of sermons in essay style (in the volume Co je ti do nás, Ježíši Nazaretský? (What Have You to Do with Us, Jesus of Nazareth?). In these modern homilies he shows not only a capacity for subtle spiritual interpretation of the words and situations in Scripture, but also an unusual empathy with human impulses, weaknesses and cares. This approach to the world is reflected in Payne’s next two works of fiction, Kol dějů (Around of Events) and Zvěsti (Tidings). Both are composed of several texts of a meditative, sometimes strongly allegorical nature, which analyze in general terms problems such as faith or lack of faith, most often in relation to the ethics of the artist, and texts of an autobiographical character, which deal with specific situations in life (relationship to parents and siblings, the burning impact of a first love affair, the vast and unending pain following the loss of parents). The stories and incidents that Payne recounts to himself and his readers in the transparent guise of a sometimes omniscient or sometimes ignorant narrator, especially in the Zvěsti collection, are handled in a way that oscillates between two rudimentary stylistic principles. One is a tendency to the stylized parable so beloved of Payne, whether more seriously or more lightly employed. The other is a tendency to the autobiographical account, conceived in almost documentary terms and with the emphasis on everyday detail. The inclination here, however, is towards fictionalized testimony, with the author looking back with appropriate reflections and, in particular, hindsight on his earlier stumbling, searching and missed opportunities. This, rather than mounds of facts, is much more the point, though the concrete facts of our destiny are abundantly present in Payne’s work in the interests of persuasiveness and with an eye to their emblematic significance.
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