This farce with an imp as narrator is an original take on the eternal story of man and woman.
Jiří Kratochvil is one of the leading postmodern Czech writers. In this story, set at the end of the Second World War, he plays with the narrator, the reader and the characters. He often shatters the illusory authenticity of the narration or, conversely, uses it as a source of tension. He plays around with form, intervenes in the action and uses alienating plot devices.
This simple story of a complicated and ultimately fruitless search begins with a malevolent narrator, the Imp, to whom the adolescent Jakoubek and the beautiful Daniela (referred to as “the whore”) fall victim. The Imp, who lives in the hollow of an oak tree after having evicted an owl, wilfully manipulates the fates of the characters and takes a capricious pleasure in his narrative. During the war, Daniela had been a prominent German mistress, and after the defeat of Germany she is only saved from being lynched by the timely intervention of the Imp. For Jakoubek, a mere week spent living with Daniela then transforms into a pubescent dream; Daniela keeps searching for her Jakoubek until she finally dies homeless on a bench by Špilberk Castle in Moravia.
Kratochvil returns to the trinity of beauty–lust–chastity and turns them upside down. In a closing note he explains how he deconstructed his earlier novel Siamský příběh (Siamese Story, 1996), the story of a twelve-year-old boy’s love for an older woman, and used it to construct Bakshish. The reader thus finds himself ‘led astray’ by the author once again. “My greatest desire is to set in motion some kind of capricious story and then tell it with gusto right to the end,” said the author, who has maintained the “lust zum fabulieren” in his latest work.
“From the first word to the last, Kratochvil’s narration is completely natural; the author employs rich language and a lofty, unique style. He has a wonderful ability to elevate reality into fantasy and intersperse the real with the surreal. Bakshish is another of Kratochvil’s open, pleasingly blurred novels, offering wide scope for reading that engages both emotion and reason. This is a book you could read a hundred times, but it would not matter: each time is like the first.”
“Bakshish is filled with real impish narrative virtuosity and the author’s imagination. Just the narrative puns, the greedy accumulation of synonymous expressions, the wit, the exaggerated lightness on the one hand and concentration of meaning on the other – this is Kratochvil at his best.”