Augustin Zimmermann, the main protagonist of this novel which takes place in the 1860s, represents an almost archetypal model of an unhappy person. While the world around him is productive and prosperous during the Industrial Revolution, his family is struggling with an existential crisis exacerbated by his alcoholism and hopeless attempts to succeed in this new world. Augustin’s uncertain past, strange unease and deceitful nature cast a dark shadow on his entire family, which is spiralling into increasing despair and falling to the bottom of the social hierarchy from which there is no escape. The story culminates tragically in Prague’s Josefov quarter, a place of misery, which for centuries was a Jewish ghetto.
This debut novella is inspired by the true story of Augustin Zimmermann and his children. However, the author, Zuzana Kultánová, uses historical events and the backdrop of old Prague to capture a timeless story about the foolish desire of the main character to break free from his nature and dark passions, which led to many fateful mistakes.