Jiří Kratochvil

Jiří Kratochvil

Novelist, essayist, playwright. He is the recipient of many literary awards including the Tom Stoppard Prize (1991), the Egon Hostovský Award (1996), the Karel Čapek Award (1998) and the Jaroslav Seifert Award (1999). His books have been translated into several foreign languages including German, Spanish, French, Bulgarian and Hungarian. He was born in Brno on 4 January 1940 and his works are mainly connected with this city.

Title Publisher Year Selected published translations Awards
Fox into a Lady (Liška v dámu) Druhé město 2019  2020 Magnesia Litera – Prose
Bakshish (Bakšiš) Větrné mlýny 2018
The Bitter Maliciousness of Living (Jízlivá potměšilost žití) Druhé město 2017 DE
The Bed Is Unmade (New Brno Tales) ( ...Lůžko je rozestlané; Nové brněnské povídky) Druhé město 2015
Flea Market (Bleší trh) Druhé město 2014
Alpha Centauri (Alfa Centauri) Druhé město 2013
Good Night, Sweet Dreams (Dobrou noc, sladké sny) Druhé město 2012 ES | DE
Circular Snare (Kruhová leč) Druhé město 2011
Femme Fatal (Femme fatale) Druhé město 2010 DE
The Promise (Slib) Druhé město 2009 ES | DE
Invisible Stories (Neviditelné příběhy (spolu s dalšími autory)) Listen 2007
Stories of the Town of Brno (Brněnské povídky) Druhé město 2007 NL | DE
Actor (Herec) Druhé město 2006
Immortal Story (Nesmrtelný příběh, aneb, Život Soni Trocké-Sammlerové, čili, Román karneval) Petrov 2005 RU | DE
Lady Carnival (Lady Carneval) Petrov 2004
Lie Down, Beast (Lehni, bestie) Petrov 2002 PL
Nostalgic and Ironic Brno (Brno nostalgické i ironické) Petrov 2001
Declaration of Love to/from the Nature of the Story (Vyznání příběhovosti) Petrov 2000
Despondent God (Truchlivý Bůh) Petrov 2000 DE
Nocturnal Tango (Noční tango) Petrov 1999  1999 Jaroslav Seifert Prize
Ur-Bear (Urmedvěd) Petrov 1999
And Granny Celebrates her Ninety-Ninth Birthday (A babička slaví devětadevadesáté narozeniny) Městské divadlo Brno 1999
Exercises for the Blind (Slepecká cvičení) Atlantis 1997
Immortal Story (Nesmrtelný příběh, aneb, Život Soni Trocké-Sammlerové, čili, Román karneval) Atlantis 1997 RU | DE
Stories of Stories (Příběhy příběhů) Atlantis 1996
Siamese Story (Siamský příběh) Atlantis 1996
Avion (Avion) Atlantis 1995  1996 Egon Hostovský Prize
Orpheus from Koenig (Orfeus z Kénigu) Atlantis 1994
O Postmodern, My Love (Má lásko, postmoderno) Atlantis 1994
Singing in the Middle of the Night (Uprostřed nocí zpěv) Atlantis 1992 ES | IT | FR | DE
A Bear’s Novel (Medvědí román) Atlantis 1990  1991 Tom Stoppard Prize
Fox into a Lady
Liška v dámu
The Bitter Maliciousness of Living
Jízlivá potměšilost žití
The Bed Is Unmade (New Brno Tales)
...Lůžko je rozestlané; Nové brněnské povídky
Flea Market
Bleší trh
Alpha Centauri
Alfa Centauri
Good Night, Sweet Dreams
Dobrou noc, sladké sny
Circular Snare
Kruhová leč
Femme Fatal
Femme fatale
Neviditelné příběhy (spolu s dalšími autory)
Invisible Stories
Neviditelné příběhy (spolu s dalšími autory)
Stories of the Town of Brno
Brněnské povídky
Immortal Story
Nesmrtelný příběh, aneb, Život Soni Trocké-Sammlerové, čili, Román karneval
Lady Carnival
Lady Carneval
Lie Down, Beast
Lehni, bestie
Nostalgic and Ironic Brno
Brno nostalgické i ironické
Despondent God
Truchlivý Bůh
Nocturnal Tango
Noční tango
A babička slaví devětadevadesáté narozeniny
And Granny Celebrates her Ninety-Ninth Birthday
A babička slaví devětadevadesáté narozeniny
Slepecká cvičení
Exercises for the Blind
Slepecká cvičení
Immortal Story
Nesmrtelný příběh, aneb, Život Soni Trocké-Sammlerové, čili, Román karneval
Příběhy příběhů
Stories of Stories
Příběhy příběhů
Siamese Story
Siamský příběh
Orpheus from Koenig
Orfeus z Kénigu
O Postmodern, My Love
Má lásko, postmoderno
A Bear’s Novel
Medvědí román
Award Year Country
Magnesia Litera – Prose 2020 Česká republika
Jaroslav Seifert Prize 1999 Česká republika
Karel Čapek Prize 1998 Česká republika
Egon Hostovský Prize 1996 Česká republika
Tom Stoppard Prize 1991 Česká republika
Kratochvil enhances the fragile poetic of a Bohumil Hrabal with the rough churlishness of a Günter Grass; he combines the cynicism of a Milan Kundera with the dreaming of a Bruno Schulz.
—Andreas Breitenstein
Neue Zürcher Zeitung

He studied Czech and Russian at Masaryk University in Brno. He was banned by the Communists at the start of the 1970s and his first samizdat work, Případem nevhodně umístěné šance (The Case of the Inappropriately Placed Chance), appeared in 1978. In the same year Medvědí román (A Bear’s Novel) also came out in samizdat form. The book, with its three narrative strands, is set in the totalitarian state of Island, which is an allegory for Czechoslovak totalitarianism. Here the fake bear leader is trying to train a fake bear to get into high politics. It is a multilayered, almost reflectively told story, in which the author discovered his narrative poetic – and which he still uses to some extent to this day. Although he may be describing a real historical period (the Nazi Protectorate, the war or the Communist era) he uses a postmodern style through allegory, hyperbole or fantastical worlds.

Kratochvil has worked as a heating operator, a night-watchman and a manual labourer. It was only after the revolution that his novels reached a mass readership – in quick succession Atlantis published Medvědí román (1991, and eight years later Petrov publishers brought it out again under its original title of Urmedvěd [Ur-Bear]), the novel Uprostřed nocí zpěv (Singing in the Middle of the Night, 1992), two short-story cycles, Má lásko, postmoderno (O Postmodern, My Love, 1994) and Orfeus z Kénigu (Orpheus from Koenig, 1994), the novel Avion (1995), the essays Příběhy příběhů (Stories of Stories, 1995), the novel Siamský příběh (Siamese Story, 1996) and the celebrated novel-carnival Nesmrtelný příběh (Immortal Story, 1997).

This “whirlwind” of novels came to an end with Noční tango (Nocturnal Tango, Petrov, 1999), about which the critic Petr Chleboun wrote: “I understand this novel really as ‘deconstructing its own architecture’ and examining the principles by which it can be put back together again. None of Kratochvil’s other books have attempted anything similar on such a grand scale.”

There then followed the novel Truchlivý Bůh (Despondent God, Petrov, 2000) and the fantastical Lehni, bestie (Lie Down, Beast, 2002), in which a distinctly fanciful story from Brno in the 1950s reflects on the attacks of September 11. The last story in this loose trilogy is Lady Carneval (Lady Carnival, Petrov, 2004), which plays with the story of a nurse called Olga Abelová who looked after the then president of Czechoslovakia, Gustáv Husák, following an operation and became a prominent part of the regime, and finds herself pilloried following its overthrow. The critic Radim Kopáč commented on the book, “How to read this book? As the work of an outstanding narrator, alternating between a detective-horror with touches of irony, or as a narrator who is first and foremost a storyteller, or as an oppressive, timeless parable and an equally serious literary parallel to Kratochvil’s own experiences in life?”

This was followed by the novel Herec (Actor, Druhé město, 2006) and the collection Brněnské povídky (Stories of the Town of Brno, Druhé město, 2007). The novel Slib (The Promise, Druhé město, 2009) is a requiem for the 1950s, and Femme fatale (Druhé město, 2010) is about a banned writer who becomes a star overnight due to a change in the regime. The novel Dobrou noc, sladké sny (Good Night, Sweet Dreams, Druhé město, 2012) describes one day in the newly liberated Brno, where the main character searches for penicillin for a Jewish sanatorium. The novel Alfa Centauri (Alpha Centauri, Druhé město, 2013) is the story of an orphan which is surprisingly set almost in the present day.

Notable awards
 2020 Magnesia Litera – Prose
 1999 Jaroslav Seifert Prize
 1998 Karel Čapek Prize
 1996 Egon Hostovský Prize
 1991 Tom Stoppard Prize
Foreign rights
Dana Blatná Literary Agency
W: http://www.dbagency.cz
E: blatna@dbagency.cz
“Narro, ergo sum,”