Milostný dopis klínovým písmem (Love Letter in Cuneiform), Tomáš Zmeškal’s debut novel, is essentially a family chronicle. The basic plot framework is set in Czechoslovakia between the 1940s and 90s. The main narrative thread follows the story of Josef and Květa Černý. The novel isn‘t constructed in a chronological order, and hence we already enter the end of the sixties in the first chapter as we witness the wedding of their daughter Alice. At the end of the novel, we encounter Josef in the West Bohemian forests during the final days of WWII. This work is elaborately structured and buoyant at the same time. Several chapters contain stories from different periods and countries. These fantasies allude to the finality and, consequently, uniqueness of every human life. We find out that Josef met his wife before the war at seminars about the Hittite culture lectured by Professor Bedřich Hrozný who deciphered the Hittite language. Květa chooses Josef over their mutual friend Hynek who starts to work as a police investigator in the fifties. When Josef gets arrested and imprisoned, Květa approaches Hynek for help and advice…
Petr Pazdera Payne
Zmeškal’s debut novel received an esteemed Czech literary prize, the Josef Škvorecký Award, and was also nominated for the Magnesia Litera 2009 award in the prose category. You can read the annotation of his second book here.
Information about the original Czech edition
Other selected published translations (4)
List miłosny pismem klinowym Polish
Az ékírásos szerelmeslevél Hungarian
Love Letter in Cuneiform English