Material Fatigue is the first novel by a Czech author to address the European migrant crisis. The hero of this book is an unnamed teenage boy. He finds himself in a foreign country in the middle of Europe, which in his eyes looks like nothing more than a complex of fences, overpasses, railway corridors and warehouses. An unknown territory, which to him seems distant and hostile. Travelling through the cold winter landscape, he is denied real life, moving like a shadow on the periphery of the country and society. He is trying to get to a city in the north where he had been heading with his older brother Aamir. During the journey they were split up by people smugglers, the boy is alone and is trying to find a way back to his brother. He now sees the world he had been hoping for as a never-ending cycle of production, where people and humanity have no place: car production, meat production in slaughterhouses, mass production of entertainment and information, instantly created world-views, the production of fear.
Although the novel is based on the current migration crisis, it explores universal themes of alienation, the loss of one’s home and roots. Šindelka depicts the reduction of the lives of ‘foreigners’, artificially created enemies, to a problem, manpower, material.
“Šindelka’s prose is strongest in its descriptions of the physical experiences of the refugees. Animal instincts seem to awaken in the main characters when their lives are threatened. Some of the insights are extremely powerful.”
— Daniel Konrád, Hospodářské noviny
“[Šindelka] is able to convey the movement of every muscle, twitching nerves as well as the effects of the elements: snow, wind, ice or clouds and their fluctuations which are indifferent to humans. These parts have an almost existential dimension.”
— Josef Chuchma, Lidové noviny 3/1/2017
“Šindelka’s book is profoundly lyrical.”
— Veronika Dvorská, A2 3/17