This novel is a narrative carnival that dresses up the bare facts of a real-life character’s story with unexpected elements and expertly strikes a balance between descriptively historical and ironic storytelling.
In his new book, Petr Stančík looks at the life and work of Pravomil Raichl (1921–2002), a heroic resistance fighter against both Nazism and Communism and failed assassin of the Stalinist prosecutor Karel Vaš. However, he does so in his own unique way: he takes reality as his starting point, but where memory grows vague, he unleashes the full force of his imagination on the text. His flights of fancy blend entertainment with instruction, adventure and play with initiation and understanding.
Major historical events extending from the First Czechoslovak Republic to the 1990s serve as a general backdrop for Raichl’s nuanced account of the everyday in all its profundity and magic. Stančík waxes lyrical about the latest model of tank or plane as well as good food, even better drink and all manner of amorous entanglements on the part of the hero. He plots out his imaginatively developed portrait in detail against the horizon of the volatile 20th century. And not only against the horizon: resistance and the struggle against communist totalitarianism are built up vertically into general, traditional, even eternal qualities such as responsibility and truthfulness towards oneself, others and the world. So what starts out as a bit of postmodern fun ultimately proves to be a noetic novel: a book of knowledge.