Petra Hůlová

Petra Hůlová

Prose writer, the recipient of several literary awards including the Magnesia Litera, the Josef Škvorecký Award and the Jiří Orten Award. Her books have been published in many languages including English, German, Hungarian, Polish and Italian. She was born in Prague on 12 July 1979.

Title Publisher Year Selected published translations Awards
Daddy Thief (Zlodějka mýho táty) Torst 2019
A Brief History of The Movement (Stručné dějiny Hnutí) Torst 2018 EN
Gorge (Macocha) Torst 2014 ES | PL
Bohemia, The Promised Land (Čechy, země zaslíbená) Torst 2012
Where You are not at Home. Travel stories (Kde nejste doma. Příběhy z cest) Větrné mlýny 2012
Guardians of the Civic Good (Strážci občanského dobra) Torst 2010 SV
All This Belongs to Me (Paměť mojí babičce) Torst 2009 IT | SV | EN | PL | DE | FR | NL  2003 Magnesia Litera – Discovery of the year
 2002 Lidové Noviny Book of the Year
Tajga Station (Stanice Tajga) Torst 2008 PL | DE  2008 Josef Škvorecký Award
Three Plastic Rooms (Umělohmotný třípokoj) Torst 2006 EN | BG | SV | PL | IT | DE  2007 Jiří Orten Award
Cirkus Les Mémoires Torst 2005 DE
Through Frosted Glass (Přes matný sklo) Torst 2004 IT
All This Belongs to Me (Paměť mojí babičce) Torst 2002 IT | SV | EN | PL | DE | FR | NL  2003 Magnesia Litera – Discovery of the year
 2002 Lidové Noviny Book of the Year
Daddy Thief
Zlodějka mýho táty
A Brief History of The Movement
Stručné dějiny Hnutí
Bohemia, The Promised Land
Čechy, země zaslíbená
Where You are not at Home. Travel stories
Kde nejste doma. Příběhy z cest
Guardians of the Civic Good
Strážci občanského dobra
All This Belongs to Me
Paměť mojí babičce
Tajga Station
Stanice Tajga
Three Plastic Rooms
Umělohmotný třípokoj
Through Frosted Glass
Přes matný sklo
All This Belongs to Me
Paměť mojí babičce
Award Year Country
National Translation Award 2010 USA
Josef Škvorecký Award 2008 Česká republika
Jiří Orten Award 2007 Česká republika
Magnesia Litera – Discovery of the year 2003 Czech Republic
Lidové Noviny Book of the Year 2002 Česká republika
All This Belongs to Me is an acutely observed account — compelling despite its grimness — of the lives of its semi-nomadic subjects.
—Madeline Clements
Times Literary Supplement

She graduated in Cultural and Mongolian Studies from Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. She made her literary debut with a book that was linked to Mongolia, Paměť mojí babičce (All This Belongs to Me, Torst, 2002), which was awarded the Magnesia Litera for discovery of the year. “What magic is behind her books which makes them so easy and natural to read, as if in one breath? The main reason is people’s age-long desire for a story, for the strong support of tradition and the continuity of family lines. The desire for a Jungian collective consciousness, which is disappearing from the hurried life of western civilization in the shadows of forbidden pasts,” wrote Bára Gregorová for iLiteratura. Hůlová tells the story of several Mongolian girls and women from different generations, from which she generates a picture of traditional society with its advantages as well as its traps.

There then followed three books in quick succession: the novella Přes matný sklo (Through Frosted Glass, Torst, 2004), which also has several voices, at the centre of which is an ageing mother and her son who is going through a divorce. The novella Cirkus les Mémoires (Torst, 2005) is about a Czech photographer who meets an emigré from Asia on a bench in New York and they fall in love. The prose work Umělohmotný třípokoj (Plastic-furnished, Three-bedroom, Torst, 2006), which is actually a monologue by a thirty-year-old prostitute, won the Jiří Orten Award. “A skilfully narrated story, very reminiscent of an old wife’s tale, which (with some exaggeration) a grandson might hear before bedtime. This is because her speech contains a lot of diminutives and quirky expressions, the personification of the male and female sexual organs – “rašple and zandavák”, and their genders cross (grammatical and ‘natural’),” wrote critic Petr Vaněk.

In 2008 Hůlová won the Josef Škvorecký Award for her novel Stanice Tajga (Tajga Station, Torst, 2008), where she returns to the Mongolian steppes, this time from the Russian side of the border. “The stories and lives of the individual characters not only interact with each other, but also with different time lines – standing in opposition to each other are two key periods in Soviet-Russian 20th century history – the postwar era filled with hope, the omnipresent sovietization, collectivization and nationalization, and the 1990s with the apparent disillusionment following the breakup of the Soviet superpower. However, both are still redolent with the spirit of hundreds of years of tsardom and several decades of Bolshevism and tyranny,” wrote Bára Gregorová about the book. On conferring their award the panel for the Škvorecký Award commented that, “Stanice Tajga is Petra Hůlová’s second major work. Her first was Paměť mojí babičce, which was an unexpected and significant discovery. In her following works it was as though the author was searching for her theme. In Stanice Tajga she was able to find it and use it extremely well. Again the book has unusual material, atmosphere and what’s more, secrets.”

Strážci občanského dobra (Guardians of the Civic Good, Torst, 2010) was published as a series of supplements by the magazine Revolver Revue. They are a socio-critical satire of contemporary Czech Republic, in the same way as Čechy, země zaslíbená (Bohemia, The Promised Land, Torst, 2012). Both titles are slightly ironic. In the first the guardians are constantly dissatisfied with the grey-keepers of the status quo, the emblematic cases from the end of communism and post-Velvet-Revolution totalitarianism in Central Europe. The second is about a promised land for a Ukrainian cleaning woman who is willing to settle for less. While the first book describes Krakow through the eyes of an ‘ordinary’ family, the second describes contemporary Czech Republic through the eyes of a Ukrainian immigrant.

Petra Hůlová’s most recent novel, Macocha (Gorge, Torst, 2014), is the cruel confession of a mother who is unable to find her own maternal instincts. It is somewhere between the fierce defence of one’s right to a messed-up life and an aggrieved accusation as everything around disintegrate.

Notable awards
 2008 Josef Škvorecký Award
 2007 Jiří Orten Award
 2003 Magnesia Litera – Discovery of the year
 2002 Lidové Noviny Book of the Year