Jáchym Topol

Jáchym Topol

Jáchym Topol (b. 1962) is arguably the most important representative of the postmodern trend in post-1989 Czech prose. He is a poet, prose writer and journalist, lyricist and musician. Winner of numerous literary prizes, including the Tom Stoppard Prize and the Vilenica Prize for contributions to Central European literature. His books have been published in more than ten languages, including English, German, Spanish and Norwegian.

Title Publisher Year Selected published translations Awards
A Sensitive Person (Citlivý člověk) Torst 2017 HR | LT | FR | NL | IT | PL | DE  2017 State Award for Literature
The Devil's Workshop (Chladnou zemí) Torst 2009 EN | PL | ES | FR | IT | NL | DE | NO | SV  2010 Jaroslav Seifert Prize
On the Way to the East (Cestou na východ) Torst 2008
A Trip to the Train Station (Výlet k nádražní hale) Torst 2007
Supermarket of Soviet Heroes (Supermarket sovětských hrdinů) Torst 2007 PL
Angel Station (Anděl) Torst 2006 EN | IT | PL | FR | DE
Golden Head (Zlatá hlava) In Život 2005 SV | NL
Gargling with Tar (Kloktat dehet) Torst 2005 IT | EN | FR | NO | PL | ES | DE | NL  2005 Lidové Noviny Book of the Year
Nightwork (Noční práce) Torst a Hynek 2001 EN | SV | ES | NO | IT | PL | DE | NL | FR
Angel Station (Anděl) Labyrint 2000 EN | IT | PL | FR | DE
I Can’t Stop (Nemůžu se zastavit (rozhovor s T. Weissem)) Portál 2000
Angel Station (Anděl) Hynek 1997 EN | IT | PL | FR | DE
Thorn Girl (Trnová dívka) Hynek 1997
City Sister Silver (Sestra) Atlantis 1996 PL | EN | DE  1995 Egon Hostovský Prize
The War Will Be on Tuesday (V úterý bude válka) Atlantis 1995
Angel Station (Anděl) Hynek 1995 EN | IT | PL | FR | DE
I Love You Madly (Miluju tě k zbláznění) Atlantis 1994  1988 Tom Stoppard Prize
City Sister Silver (Sestra) Atlantis 1994 PL | EN | DE  1995 Egon Hostovský Prize
The War Will Be on Tuesday (V úterý bude válka) Vokno 1992
I Love You Madly (Miluju tě k zbláznění) Atlantis 1991  1988 Tom Stoppard Prize
A Sensitive Person
Citlivý člověk
The Devil's Workshop
Chladnou zemí
Cestou na východ
On the Way to the East
Cestou na východ
Výlet k nádražní hale
A Trip to the Train Station
Výlet k nádražní hale
Supermarket sovětských hrdinů
Supermarket of Soviet Heroes
Supermarket sovětských hrdinů
Zlatá hlava
Golden Head
Zlatá hlava
Gargling with Tar
Kloktat dehet
Noční práce
Nemůžu se zastavit (rozhovor s T. Weissem)
I Can’t Stop
Nemůžu se zastavit (rozhovor s T. Weissem)
Trnová dívka
Thorn Girl
Trnová dívka
V úterý bude válka
The War Will Be on Tuesday
V úterý bude válka
Miluju tě k zbláznění
I Love You Madly
Miluju tě k zbláznění
V úterý bude válka
The War Will Be on Tuesday
V úterý bude válka
Miluju tě k zbláznění
I Love You Madly
Miluju tě k zbláznění
Award Year Country
State Award for Literature 2017 Česká republika
Vilenica Award 2015 Slovenija
English PEN Award for Writing in Translation 2013 United Kingdom
Jaroslav Seifert Prize 2010 Česká republika
Lidové Noviny Book of the Year 2005 Česká republika
Egon Hostovský Prize 1995 Česká republika
Tom Stoppard Prize 1988 Česká republika
The Devil’s Workshop is a miracle of compression, its scope greater than ought to be possible for a book of its length. It should help to cement Jáchym Topol’s reputation as one of the most original and compelling European voices at work today.
—Daniel Medin
Times Literary Supplement

He is the son of the playwright Josef Topol and the brother of the musician and composer Filip Topol. In the 1980s he wrote lyrics for his band Psí vojáci. His poems have also been set to music by Monika Načeva. He had various manual jobs under the totalitarian regime, and after 1990 he worked as a journalist at Respekt and Lidové noviny, he ran Revolver revue, and today he heads the Václav Havel Library in Prague.

He first published his work in samizdat form and has gradually moved from poems to prose. His first books presented his poems from the 1980s, and the collection Miluju tě k zbláznění (I Love You Madly, Atlantis, 1991) and V úterý bude válka (The War Will Be on Tuesday, Vokno, 1992) were brought out in quick succession.

There then followed the novel Sestra (City Sister Silver, Atlantis, 1994), which is still regarded as one of the best literary depictions of the wretchedness of 1980s Czechoslovakia and the transition to freedom – on the one hand euphoric, on the other hand full of a dangerous rapaciousness, a desire to try everything first-hand immediately. A state of disintegration and chaos is characteristic of freedom, and it affects each of the novel’s characters. City Sister Silver also represents a transition in Topol’s work – from poems to prose, from romantic and existential positions to destruction and apocalyptic depictions. Topol’s language is elemental, heart-rending and ferocious, it rushes in tempo and describes a stream of existence leading from nowhere to nowhere.

There then followed the novella Výlet k nádražní hale (A Trip to the Train Station, Petrov, 1995) and the Smíchov ballad Anděl (Angel Station, Hynek, 1995), which was used as the basis for a film. Then came the set of Native American myths and legends Trnová dívka (Thorn Girl, Hynek, 1997).  The heroes of the novel Noční práce (Nightwork, Hynek, Torst, 2001) and the dramatic farce Kloktat dehet (Gargling with Tar, Torst, 2005) are searching for their place in the world – their mothers are either weak or are completely absent, and grasping the world around them is complicated for the heroines who are growing up and have never known the support and safety of a balanced family. Whereas in Nightwork the background to the story is formed by the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, in the book Gargling with Tar the author mocks the glorified category of war hero through the suffering of the characters.

A fragment of a newly prepared novel Mongolský vlk was published in a limited edition entitled Zlatá hlava (Golden Head, Torst, 2005). This was followed by the collection Supermarket sovětských hrdinů (Supermarket of Soviet Heroes, Torst, 2007), in which the publisher brought together texts by Topol which were inaccessible or had only been published in magazines. Four years after his last novel, readers were eagerly awaiting Topol’s latest book, the acclaimed Chladnou zemí (The Devil’s Workshop, Torst, 2009), for which the author was awarded the Jaroslav Seifert Prize.

Topol’s novella centres on Terezín, with its memory of place – and the question of whether this memory should be preserved or buried. As Ladislav Nagy writes in a review on iLiteratura, “The Devil’s Workshop is not even intended as a large-scale, epic narrative which absorbs the reader, but rather as a semi-documentary text brimming over with facts and statistics, leaving the reader better informed and pondering what he has learned from it, the reader standing at the beginning of a new story in which disturbing questions remain but the backdrop is becoming the very world around us – a story with an ending which is open, just as the conclusion to Topol’s book is.”

Notable awards
 2017 State Award for Literature
 2010 Jaroslav Seifert Prize
 2005 Lidové Noviny Book of the Year
 1995 Egon Hostovský Prize
 1988 Tom Stoppard Prize
Foreign rights
W: http://www.pluh.org
E: info@pluh.org
E: jatop@volny.cz