The new homegrown prose  is distinguished by several main trends and directions.  By far the most significant of these is an autobiographical tendency and (pseudo) authenticity in modern prose. This trend can be seen in Michal Viewegh’s (1962) literary diaries Báječný rok (2006) and Další báječný rok(2011) and in his latest novel Biomanželka(2010). The most commercially successful and popular author, loved and loathed by the literary critics, he works as a professional writer and usually brings out a book every year. In his novels about contemporary life he focuses mainly on the description of interpersonal relationships and people in crisis situations through the use of simple but skillfully crafted stories (Andělé všedního dne, 2007, or Román pro muže, 2008).
Michal Viewegh. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages. A.G. Brain’s translation of Bringing Up Girls in Bohemia (Readers International, 1997) was published in English. Recently, however, Viewegh has been more successful in the German market: several translations have been published by Deuticke publishers, with Eva Profousová’s translation Engel des letzten Tages (2010) enjoying particular success. www.viewegh.cz
A large group of the “autobiographical” prose writers present stories which are set in relatively normal situations – from these they then look for various paths and points of departure. Some of them consciously resign themselves to the everyday and describe tired and sometimes confused main characters whom readers can easily relate to. This banal world is often connected to the city, pub culture and small-scale stories. Emil Hakl (1958) is one of the most significant authors from this group. He is characterised by his easy flowing style, his ability to capture the language of the city and his self-ironic gestures and in his latest works, such as the book Pravidla směšného chování (2010), there is also (self) reflection and weighty themes (a dying father). Even greater introspection is in evidence in the works of Ivan Matoušek (1948), for example in the critically well-received opuses Spas (2001) and Oslava (2009).
Emil Hakl. His works have been translated into eight languages. Hakl’s most successful book, O rodičích a dětech, translated into English by Mark Tomin (Of Kids & Parents, Twisted Spoon Press, 2008), captures the idiosyncratic dialogue of a father and son discussing fundamental as well as relatively unimportant problems in life. The book was made into a film in 2007 by Vladimír Michálek and two years later Tomin’s translation was nominated for the prestigious Oxford-Weidenfeld prize. The book was also chosen as one of the seven best books of the year by the Californian magazine Ralph. www.emilhakl.cz
The acceleration of our extra-literary reality has understandably also influenced domestic prose: attempts at dynamism often lead to the motif of the journey as the central point in prose. In Czech prose over the past few years there has been a significant trend towards finding material in foreign countries. With slight exaggeration, part of the domestic production can be divided into “pro-Western” and “pro-Eastern”. The exceptions to this are works which are directed elsewhere, such as the Croatian short stories Sůl, ovce, kamení (2003) by Magdaléna Platzová (1972) or the Australian subject matter (Slečno, ras přichází, 2004, and Záliv osamění a zapomenuté australské povídky, 2007) in the works of Edgar Dutka (1941).
The principle of nomadism, the journey into the unknown, is as much a form of escape as a search for oneself or an attempt at exoticism. Many are also able to employ the journey as a wider (or deeper) metaphor. In this too can be seen a strong tendency towards the autobiographical. Jaroslav Rudiš (1972) was the first to draw attention to himself in this regard with his novella Nebe pod Berlínem (2002), in which he established a type of “fleeing” unanchored thirty-year-old. In his other works, i.e. the graphic novels in the Alois Nebel series (2003–2008, together with Jaromír 99), the novel Grandhotel (2006) and the latest book to be published, Konec punku v Helsinkách (2010), Rudiš also deals with the converging lines of Czech and German 20th-century history. He himself comes from the borders of Sudeten Bohemia, where the German as well as Polish past remains alive. The Sudeten motif has often appeared in literature since 1989.
Jaroslav Rudiš. His works have been translated into six languages. Rudiš’s debut Der Himmel unter Berlin, translated by Eva Profousová,was published in German in 2005 by Rowohlt publishers. Rudiš’s regular publishers Labyrint also brought out an English version of the comic Alois Nebel. www.jaroslavrudis.wordpress.com
Among the globetrotting authors, the documentarist Martin Ryšavý (1967) stands out with his Cesty na Sibiř (2008). Due to its well-developed structure and rich language this two-part saga about several years of return visits to remote corners of the world precisely captured the feelings of a generation from 1989 to the present. Ryšavý’s latest works are Vrač (2010) and Čtyřsloupový ostrov (2011), where he uses his documentary and objective style to capture Russian society in the 20th century in the form of smaller human stories.
A completely different environment – although still connected with travel – is used in some of the works of Petra Hůlová (1979), in particular in her debut from the Mongolian steppes, Paměť mojí babičce(2002). The core of her texts is a carefully constructed, centripetal and often boldly inventive story. She employs language in an original way, which is a mixture of normal Czech with surprising similes, and is also unique in her courageous use of narrative (Cirkus Les Memoires,2005, Stanice Tajga, 2008). In her latest novel Strážci občanského dobra(2010) she chose the surprising viewpoint of a main character who, even in contemporary society, finds herself agreeing with the postulates of pre-revolutionary socialism.
Petra Hůlová. The author’s books have been translated into eight languages, with Luchterhand immediately publishing three translations by Michael Stavarič and Christa Rothmeier. Alex Zucker won the national translation prize of the American Literary Translation Association for his translation of Hůlová’s debut work, All This Belongs to Me (Northwestern University Press, 2009). email@example.com
In a linguistic-stylistic sense Hůlová is close to Jáchym Topol (1962), an outstanding author of incredibly complex novels. Topol works in an original manner with space and particularly time. He is thus able to move along time axes from the contemporary world to a type of archetypal non-time, constructing metaphors which are demanding but at the same time attractive for the reader (for example in the book Noční práce, 2001). Topol’s latest prose offerings, Kloktat dehet (2005) and Chladnou zemí (2009), are set on the Russian front (present-day Belarus) during the Second World War.
Jáchym Topol. Son of the dramatist Josef Topol and brother of the musician Filip (Psí vojáci), he was instrumental in the formation of the Czech underground. In 2010 he won the prestigious Jaroslav Seifert Prize. His works have been translated into fifteen languages. In 2011 The Independent newspaper nominated his Gargling With Tar (Portobello Books, 2010, translated by David Short) for the foreign literature prize. firstname.lastname@example.org
There are relatively few authors in the Czech Republic who step away from reality. Recently the saga novel has become very popular. Through the prism of multiple narrators, writers usually present the chronicle of a single family extending across the whole of the 20th century (filled with wars and totalitarian regimes). This typifies the novels of Anna Zonová (1962), e.g. Za trest a za odměnu (2004), based on the events surrounding the expulsions in Moravian Sudetenland. Patriarchátu dávno zašlá sláva (2003) by Pavel Brycz (1968) describes a Ukrainian family’s break with traditions in the 20th century. Markéta Pilátová’s (1973) debut work Žluté oči vedou domů (2007) is concerned with the issue of homeland and emigration in the lives of four women. Radka Denemarková (1968) also achieved success with her novel on Czech-German guilt and forgiveness, Penize od Hitlera. Tomáš Zmeškal (1966) attempted to move away from this popular generational form of novel with his remarkable debut Milostný dopis klínovým písmem (2008), where the family chronicle merges with bizarre philosophical visions. With the mixing of genres, the use of letters and embedded narratives – today text messaging and emails are as common as alternating narrators – we can see that postmodern traits are still alive and well in Czech prose.
Radka Denemarková. Her books have been translated into five languages. The work which has received the most acclaim, Penize od Hitlera, for which she and the translator Eva Profousová received a prize at the German festival Usedom Literary Days, was translated into English by Andrew Oakland in 2009 (Money from Hitler, Canadian Scholars’ Press – Women’s Press). In 2010 the author was among the guests at the New York festival New Literature from Europe. www.denmarkova.cz
It was within the confines of the “civil” – or rather merciless, demystified and very contemporary – family that the prematurely deceased Jan Balabán (1961−2010) sought his subject matter. His prose on bankrupt lives is marked by stringency as well as urgency. The author convincingly avoided the usual clichés associated with life on the edge, pubs and alcohol and homelessness. His characters may have lost their way through their own fault, but they live in God’s world and a certain hope remains for them.
The family as suffering and childhood as the climactic trauma are described by the bestselling young writer Petra Soukupová (1982) in her second novel Zmizet (2009), which won Book of the Year at the 2010 Magnesia Litera awards. The repetitive stories and variations on the same motifs affect the reader principally due to the language and style: the author presents them with a cynical timelessness – and always with a pre-determined fatalism.
An expressive opulence and baroque luxuriance are characteristic of the authors who satisfy the readers’ desire for a story, the supreme Czech postmodernists Jiří Kratochvil (1940) and Miloš Urban (1967). Both of them set their novels in specific, real environments, but they transcend these and offer a very distinctive point of view. Kratochvil (Lady Carneval, 2004) continuously – and explicitly – plays a game with his readers and turns to them throughout the course of the entire text. Urban (Lord Mord, 2008) constructs detective stories which pass through various time realms; his aim is obviously to amuse and excite.
Jiří Kratochvil. The works of this Brno patriot have been translated into ten languages. The novel Slib was translated by Christa Rothmeier and Julie Hansen-Löve as Das Versprechen des Architekten (Braumüller Literaturverlag) and was listed among the top ten detective stories by the German daily Die Welt in June 2010. email@example.com
Miloš Urban. His “gothic” and “mysterious” novels, replete with mystification and postmodern games, have been translated into thirteen languages. Thanks to translations into Spanish he has become particularly commercially successful in Hispanic and Hispanic-American areas. Urban’s first translation into English came out in 2010: the novel Sedmikostelí was translated by Robert Russell as The Seven Churches and was published by Peter Owen publishers. www.milos-urban.cz
Irena Dousková (1964) and Petr Šabach (1951) are important writers whose works lie somewhere between short stories and the novel. They have become famous mainly through prose which looks back on life in Czechoslovakia during normalisation. Both of them view the world through the eyes of children, e.g. Dousková in her opus Oněgin byl Rusák (2006) and Šabach in his novel Opilé banány (2001).
A specialist interest in semiotics and deconstructionist philosophy has influenced several of the novels of Michal Ajvaz (1949), written in the style of magical realism. There was a similar specialist interest in literary-science discourse in the more complicated opuses of Daniela Hodrová (1946).
Michal Ajvaz. His books have been translated into eight languages. Recently the American publishers Dalkey Archive Press published two of his novels in quick succession: The Other City and The Golden Age (translated by Gerald Turner and Andrew Oakland respectively). The internet shop Amazon.com listed the second title in its prestigious Editor’s Top Ten in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. The book was also listed amongst the best titles of 2009 by the periodicals Time Out New York and Locus Magazine and was nominated for the translation prize by the American university portal Three Percent and for the Californian prize for the translation of sci-fi and fantasy literature into English. firstname.lastname@example.org
Alongside the above-mentioned there are of course a host of other authors in the Czech Republic. Their profiles and contact details can be found on the Czech Literature Portal in the Authors section (www.czechlit.cz/authors).
Prose from elsewhere
A relatively large percentage of contemporary Czech writers are recruited from outside literary circles. The most numerous are film-makers, screenplay writers and documentarists, such as the already mentioned Martin Ryšavý and Petra Soukupová as well as, for example, Pavel Göbl (1967). This fact may change with the increasing number of publishing graduates emerging from the Josef Škvorecký Literary Academy, where several successful writers have taught and are currently teaching.
Several successful literary works have given rise to theatre plays (Hrdý Budžes (2003), based on the novel of the same name by Irena Dousková, had an exceptionally long run at the Divadlo bez zábradlí) as well as films (many films have been made from Michal Viewegh’s novels; an animated version of Alois Nebel based on the graphic novellas by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír 99 is set for release in 2011). The authors often collaborate on screenplays. Literature also occupies an indispensable place on the radio, for example the Czech Radio Vltava station with its project A Play for the Third Century, which looks at contemporary Czech writers including Arnošt Goldflam (1946) and David Zábranský (1977).
Sci-fi and fantasy have enjoyed sustained popularity in the Czech Republic, especially among younger readers. The most successful artists in this area include Ondřej Neff (1945), Jiří Kulhánek (1967), Františka Vrbenská (1952), Leonard Medek (1955) and Miroslav Žamboch (1972). Since 2000 there has also been an increase in readers’ interest in original Czech comics. Alongside the above-mentioned J. Rudiš and Jaromír 99 it is also necessary to mention Jiří Grus (1978; author of the four-part series Voleman, 2007–2010), Džian Baban & Vojtěch Mašek (both 1977; authors of the four-part series Monstrkabaret Freda Brunolda, 2004–2009) and Lucie Lomová (1964; Anna chce skočit, 2007), who concurrently publishes her work in French.
Post-1989 Romany literature in the Czech Republic is known primarily through the collections of traditional folk literature. A representative sample of original literary creations by Romany authors from the end of the Second World War to the present day can be found in the anthology Sytá duše (eds. Jana Kramářová, Helena Sadílková, 2007). Other significant minorities in the Czech Republic are the Vietnamese community and the community of Anglo-American writers: while the representatives of the first group have their own communication channels, the representatives of the second group who have been living for a longer period in Prague (Louis Armand, Stephan Delbos, Jason Mashak and Justin Quinn) occasionally collaborate with the local literary scene.
Alongside the large literary festivals in the Czech Republic, such as the Měsíc autorského čtení [Month of Author’s Readings] (Brno, 2011 was its 12th year), Svět knihy [Book World] (Prague, 17th year) and Festival spisovatelů [Writers’ Festival] (Prague, 21st year), regular authors’ readings are held in libraries and clubs, as well as other less traditional venues. The touring programmeLiStOVáNí is dedicated to stage adaptations of newly published books – not all of which are Czech.
Prose in translation
Czech authors in English, German, Spanish and other languages. In the Excerpts section of the authors’ profiles on the Czech Literature Portal (www.czechlit.cz) you can find passages from writers’ works in several world languages.
A complete bibliography of translated Czech literature since 1989 does not yet exist. For this reason the following section deals with those contemporary Czech authors who have been translated the most and also takes into consideration how their texts reach foreign readers.
Since 1989 works by deceased writers have been frequently translated. These include the ever popular Bohumil Hrabal, Jaroslav Hašek and Karel Čapek, followed by Jaroslav Durych, Ladislav Klíma, Arnošt Lustig, Josef Váchal and Jiří Weil. The most frequently translated living authors – often with more than one title translated into several languages and with relative commercial and critical success – are Ivan Klíma (1931), Václav Havel (1936), Jáchym Topol, Jiří Kratochvil and Michal Viewegh; in Spain and Latin America Miloš Urban has enjoyed success with his “gothic” novels. Of the younger writers Petra Hůlová has started to make a name for herself.
For a Czech author to be exported abroad it is essential for him to be popular in the Czech Republic; this is measured in part by the number of books sold, and in part by the literary awards gained (the State Literature Prize, Magnesia Litera, the Jaroslav Seifert Prize, etc). In the 1980s and shortly after November 1989, when the political system changed in Czechoslovakia, foreign publishers and their readerships were interested in literary reflections on the totalitarian system which had governed in Czechoslovakia since the postwar years; however, in the 1990s this interest waned. Today other themes are more attractive: from partner and family relationships and their problems and crises (M. Viewegh), through the Second World War and its subsequent effects on society, culture and specific individuals (Radka Denemarková), to genre writing (the story-telling of Jiří Kratochvil, the magical realism of Michal Ajvaz, the postmodern detective novels of Miloš Urban). Experiences in foreign countries and socio-cultural “oddities” are also attractive subjects for translation (Petra Hůlová: Mongolia, USA; Jaroslav Rudiš: Germany; Markéta Pilátová: Brazil, etc.).
The translation of Czech literature is systematically supported by the Ministry of Culture in the Czech Republic. A programme was established in 1998 which has given financial support to more than 400 translations of Czech novels into various languages (grant applications from foreign publishers always have to be submitted by November 15th). Last year the Ministry brought out a Czech-German-English publication Czech Literature in Translation (1998–2010) (ed. Radim Kopáč, 2010).  In addition, every year the Ministry (in collaboration with Svět knihy) sends 30 contemporary Czech writers to various book fairs and literary festivals (Bologna, Leipzig, Frankfurt, London, Moscow, etc) and at the same time supports the annual Seminar for Foreign Scholars of Czech Studies run by the Obec spisovatelů [Association of Writers] – an event where foreign scholars of Czech can meet with local publishers, authors, literary critics, historians and scientists. Foreign Czech scholars’ work is recognised by the Premia Bohemica prize, which has been awarded by the Obec spisovatelů since 1993. Among the prize winners have been Anželina Penčeva, Edgar de Bruin, Eckhard Thiele, Margarita Kjurkčijeva, István Vörös, Reiner Kunze, Leszek Engelking, Eero Balk, Ewald Osers, Christa Rothmeier and Oleg Malevič.
Literary agents provide an invaluable service to writers. Contemporary Czech literature is catered for by two such agents: Dana Blatná (www.dbagency.cz) and Edgar de Bruin (www.pluh.org). Together they represent forty authors. Their experience of getting Czech literature published in foreign markets is reflected in the previously mentioned publication Czech Literature in Translation (1998–2010). It is worth noting that there is another organisation called Literature across Frontiers which organises translation seminars and writers’ readings across the world.
Due to their joint historical and cultural ties, Czech literature is exported mainly to its neighbouring countries, particularly Poland and Germany. Translations into German – promoted by a series of authors’ readings – open the gates for writers not only to the Austrian and Swiss markets, but often also to other European countries and sometimes even overseas. In recent years this has been confirmed by the success of Jaroslav Rudiš, Jáchym Topol and Radka Denemarková. In 2010 the project So nah, so fremd [So near, so foreign] was implemented, thanks to which excerpts from various works have been translated into German by authors such as Michal Ajvaz, Antonín Bajaji, Jan Balabán, Jiří Hájíček, Jan Novák, Jana Šrámková and Vlastimil Třešňák. (These translations can be found in the Excerpts section of the relevant authors’ profiles on the Portal of Czech Literature).
Czech literature has not only been translated into the languages of its neighbouring countries, but also into Russian, Italian and Slovenian. The tradition and current state of Czech studies in each given country is decisive in this respect. Often specific translations are the result of the personal involvement of Czech scholars and translators. However, in recent years several editorial series have been published which are systematically dedicated to (contemporary) Czech prose: in the first place it is necessary to mention the Belgian-Dutch publisher Voetnoot, which in its Moldaviet edition has published eighteen authors to date (including Michal Ajvaz, Edgar Dutka, Sylva Fischerová, Jiří Kratochvil, Jáchym Topol and Miloš Urban). This year the Swedish publisher Aspekt brought out titles by Jaroslav Rudiš, Emil Hakl and Michal Ajvaz.
The Austrian publisher Braumüller also has a systematic approach to new Czech prose (Jiří Kratochvil, Edgar Dutka and Stanislav Komárek). In France, where no great interest in new Czech literature has otherwise been in evidence, the works of Květa Legátová (1919), Jozova Hanule (La belle de Joza, 2008) and Želary (Ceux de Zelary, 2010), and Martin Šmaus (1965) Děvčátko, rozdělej ohníček (Petite, allume un feu…, 2009) have been successfully published.
In English-speaking countries Michal Ajvaz has been doing particularly well. He has made his mark as a distinguished sci-fi and fantasy author with his books Druhé město (The Other City, 2009) and Zlatý věk (The Golden Age, 2010), published by the American publishers Dalkey Archive Press. The major exporter of Czech literature to the Anglo-American market is the Prague publisher Twisted Spoon Press, which has brought out prose by Ladislav Klíma, Bohumil Hrabal, Pavel Brycz (Jsem město – I City, 2006) and Emil Hakl (O rodičích a dětech – Of Kids & Parents, 2008). The various award nominations (e.g. the American portal Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award for Michal Ajvaz) show the high regard in which the English translations of Czech literature are held.
Contemporary Czech literature is only rarely translated into what local authors would term as exotic languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese or Korean; there is more interest in the classics such as Karel Čapek, Jaroslav Hašek or Bohumil Hrabal. In Brazil last year a translation of Markéta Pilátová’s Žluté oči vedou domů was published (Olhos de Loba, translator Jana Cardoso); there was also a Brazilian Portuguese translation of the “anthology of contemporary women’s short stories” Ty, která píšeš (ed. Radim Kopáč) entitled Elas Escrevem and translated by Martina Malechová.
 This study is aimed solely at authors who have been continually present in a Czech cultural context: for this reason we have omitted Milan Kundera, Věra Linhartová, Patrik Ouředník, Iva Pekárková and Josef Škvorecký.
 The article is loosely based on Marta Ljubková’s text “Contemporary Czech literature”, which came out in 2010 as part of the research project Study of the state, structure, conditions and finance of art in the Czech Republic, carried out by the Institute of Art.
 The publication includes a bibliography of translations of Czech literature supported by the Czech Republic Ministry of Culture from 1998–2010; an identical list can be found on the Ministry’s website (www.mkcr.cz/literatura-a-knihovny)