We can’t choose our parents. But sometimes we get to choose our kids.
The debut novel by Viktorie Hanišová reveals the tragic consequences of a single wrong choice. Self-confident, educated, worldly-wise Julie is unable to have children of her own, and without a partner she doesn’t qualify for the adoption programme; meanwhile, the proverbial biological clock is ticking. Julie’s dream of Anežka, a little blonde girl with plaits, looks increasingly likely to remain unfulfilled; she becomes desperate to have a child at all costs. Bypassing the authorities and the law, Julie takes Agnes, an unwanted Romani child, into her care. But the baby Julie wanted was Anežka, not the one she has chosen — a cluster of her own prejudices and an embodiment of one of the most sensitive issues in Czech society. She starts to lie, first to others, then to herself. And Agnes grows up in a state of permanent struggle with the ideas of others about herself.
Viktorie Hanišová’s novel presents readers with a view of a poignantly common phenomenon: a mother-daughter relationship that is disturbed from the outset, crippled by the former’s bourgeois anxiety and the latter’s inability to break the stereotype.
The novel is rooted in the everyday. The protagonist’s decline is described not as a bildungsroman in reverse but as a series of the kind of failures that can happen to anyone, the sheer ordinariness of which makes them all the more tragic.
About the author
Viktorie Hanišová (b. 1980) is a graduate in English and German from Charles University, Prague; she works as a translator and language teacher; the novel Anežka is her first book.