Tomáš Zmeškal

Love Letter in Cuneiform

Milostný dopis klínovým písmem
Language: Czech
Title: Milostný dopis klínovým písmem
Place: Praha
Publisher: Torst
Year: 2008
Pages: 348
Genre: Prose
ISBN: 9788072153497
Awards
 2011 European Union Prize for Literature
 2009 Josef Škvorecký Award
Foreign rights
Pluh
W: http://www.pluh.org
E: info@pluh.org
Contacts
W: http://www.tomaszmeskal.cz
E: tomaszmeskal@tomaszmeskal.cz
Goodreads rating
75.2% (Rated by 169 users)

Milostný dopis klínovým písmem (Love Letter in Cuneiform), Tomáš Zmeškal’s debut novel, is essentially a family chronicle. The basic plot framework is set in Czechoslovakia between the 1940s and 90s. The main narrative thread follows the story of Josef and Květa Černý. The novel isn‘t constructed in a chronological order, and hence we already enter the end of the sixties in the first chapter as we witness the wedding of their daughter Alice. At the end of the novel, we encounter Josef in the West Bohemian forests during the final days of WWII. This work is elaborately structured and buoyant at the same time. Several chapters contain stories from different periods and countries. These fantasies allude to the finality and, consequently, uniqueness of every human life. We find out that Josef met his wife before the war at seminars about the Hittite culture lectured by Professor Bedřich Hrozný who deciphered the Hittite language. Květa chooses Josef over their mutual friend Hynek who starts to work as a police investigator in the fifties. When Josef gets arrested and imprisoned, Květa approaches Hynek for help and advice…

(Petr Pazdera Payne)

Praise

“[Love Letter in Cuneiform] is a very fine novel of (a few slices of) Czech life in the second half of the twentieth century, with a nice balance of the wildly imagined and the all-too-real.”

—M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review

“To frame a book around a letter written in cuneiform […] suggests a fascination with things exotic, alien, difficult to decipher. Since most surviving examples of cuneiform are official letters and records, however, it also implies the persistence of bureaucracy and its inevitable intertwining with literacy and literature. Tomáš Zmeškal’s fascinating novel of 2008 […] plays between these poles of fantasy and bureaucracy, and their different ways of managing human life.”

— Kathryn Murphy, The Times Literary Supplement

Read an excerpt

Love Letter in Cuneiform English

Selected published translations (5)

List miłosny pismem klinowym Polish

Een liefdesbrief in spijkerschrift Dutch

Az ékírásos szerelmeslevél Hungarian

Love Letter in Cuneiform English

Lettera d’amore in scrittura cuneiforme Italian

Language: Czech
Title: Milostný dopis klínovým písmem
Place: Praha
Publisher: Torst
Year: 2008
Pages: 348
Genre: Prose
Awards
 2011 European Union Prize for Literature
 2009 Josef Škvorecký Award
Foreign rights
Pluh