A dystopian page-turner about the coming of age of a young hero, which won the 2017 EU Prize for Literature.
A fishing village at the end of the world. A lake that is drying up and, ominously, pushing out its banks. The men have vodka, the women troubles, the children eczema to scratch at. Born into this unforgiving environment, Nami, a young boy, embarks on a journey with nothing but a bundle of nerves, a coat that was once his grandfather’s and the vague idea of searching for his mother, who disappeared from his life at a young age. To uncover the greatest mystery of his life, he must sail across and walk around the lake and finally sink to its bottom.
This novel is a raw account of life in a devastated land and the harsh, primitive circumstances under which people fight to survive. Nami’s story touches on various contemporary societal and political issues from life in post-soviet Europe to ecology, but they never take the spotlight away from the powerful central narrative. The tension between the novel’s uncertain setting, both in time and space, and its naturalistic realism transforms one boy’s coming of age into an often-disconcerting modern myth.
“A bleak story about adolescence with existential power.”
“You will read Bianca Bellová’s raw, ruthless, apocalyptic prose with astonishment. It’s a stubborn and prickly book, which resists the reader until the last sentence, yet you won’t be able to put it down. Such a confidently and authentically written work with a clear intention, precise and seamless, deserves awards.”
— Kateřina Kadlecová, Reflex
“Bianca Bellová has enriched Czech literature with a harsh dystopia, one of the most remarkable books of recent years.”
— Alena Slezáková, MF Dnes
“Bianca Bellová’s novel The Lake is an archetypal story of the coming of age of a young hero who fights his way out of a tough environment as he searches for his roots in the contaminated soil of his devastated lakeland home. While the depiction of the post‐Soviet landscape is symbolic and metaphorical, the method of narration is harshly realistic. Nami, the boy, is reminiscent of the hero of Kosiński’s The Painted Bird or picaresque scoundrel characters in the prose of Jáchym Topol. Unsentimental, savage, yet somehow maternal, Bianca Bellová’s sensuous vision and approach are wholly original, and they serve up an extraordinary reading experience.”
— Jiří Peňás, critic and columnist
Read an excerpt
The Lake English
Selected published translations (4)
Am See German
Het meer Dutch
Il lago Italian