Novelist and literary editor. His books have been published in several languages including French, Polish and Swedish. He was born in Klášterec nad Ohří on 15 April 1957.
He trained as a mechanic and following his military service worked in a power station. In 1981 he emigrated across Yugoslavia, Austria and Italy to France. The main character from his cult trilogy …a bude hůř (…And It’ll Get Worse) would later follow a similar trail. He lived in Marseille and after moving to Paris worked as an editor for the magazine Svědectví (Witness), which was run by one of our leading emigrés and future minister of culture, Pavel Tigrid. His influence on the young Pelc was immeasurable. Pelc set up his newsletter Kus řeči (Natter) and was in charge of the Světlík (Light Shaft) book series.
His debut, the novel …a bude hůř (…And It’ll Get Worse, Cologne, Index, 1985, in Czechoslovakia by Panorama, 1990), was one of the literary events of the 1980s. On the surface it is a celebration of unrestrained drinking and uninhibited sex, but at its heart is the authentic experience of an underground “idle” opposition, which in the 1970s and 80s was not only against the Communist comrades, but was also in its own way opposed to overly intellectual dissent. The main character, Olin, shares many autobiographical traits with Pelc. He presents him alongside a motley assortment of characters in northern Bohemia – an area which had initially seen violent evictions and then forced resettlement. The three-part epic continues as the main character makes his way from refugee camp to refugee camp on his road to freedom. “The author handles the shocking, but monotonous theme, by using his spontaneous narrative talent, an apt concreteness and sense of language. His dialogues, filled with jargon and vulgarisms, have a dramatic tempo and the narrator’s language demonstrates an inventiveness primarily in the ironic use of established idioms and sayings, and in a gentle humour which gives insight into a wholehearted devotion to the present moment,” wrote critic Přemysl Blažíček about the book. The novel received a mixed reception – his blunt view of Normalization not only infuriated party members, but the sex scenes also caused indignation. However, hidden behind the uninhibited sex was also a desire for freedom, while the ostensibly cynical main characters have a solidarity between them and behave more morally than the prudes around them.
Pelc’s short-story collections often have a similar tempo, language and carnality. Along with the squalor and ugliness of the main protagonists, the reader also finds cautionary examples and surprising companions. From Pelc’s short-story collections came the books … a to mi nemůžete udělat (…And You Can’t Do That To Me, Maťa, 1998), … a máš mě rád? (…And Do You Love Me? Maťa, 1999), … a výstupy do údolí (…And Emerging into the Valley, Maťa, 2000), …a golpotoni táhnou (…And the Golopotons Pull, Maťa, 2002), ...a vyberte si (…And Take Your Pick, Maťa, 2004), …a poslední kouř (..And the Last Smoke, Maťa, 2006).
Pelc followed up the novel ...a bude hůř with the novella Basket Flora (Maťa, 1995) about the brutal methods of Detective Stulík. The book was later adapted as a two-part comic.
Jan Pelc is also (together with Milan Hlavsa) the author of the book Bez ohňů je underground (Without Fire There’s Underground, BFS, 1992, revised Maťa, 2001), a history of the alternative rock band Plastic People of the Universe.