Have you ever read a story about a boy who would from time to time take trips into the wide world while still inside his mother’s womb? And what if these trips influenced world events? Zábranský has written a book which provoked a lot of discussion in 2015 and has received many enthusiastic reviews. This lengthy novel skilfully combines many types of storytelling: reviews have compared it to Rabelais and Sterne but also Márquez and Latin American magic realism. The setting is however in southern Bohemia instead of Márquez’s Macondo. The founding of Czechoslovakia, the Great Depression, collapse of Czechoslovakia, World War II, expulsion of Germans, another Czechoslovakia, we watch all this from the perspective of small-town heroes. However, the local settings and events only serve as a backdrop for universally understandable humour. “You aren’t reading a report about the past. You are watching a narrator-illusionist, who is trying to assemble a suggestive whole from individual characters, places and events […] without feeling the need to address the fact that certain elements are from the real world, others are derived from myths and some are pure phantasmagoria,” writes Petr A. Bílek in his review for the Respekt magazine. Zábranský won the Magnesia Litera for discovery of the year in 2006 and was shortlisted in the prose category in 2016 for Martin Juhás.
“Zábranský’s new, weighty and playful novel stands out as an exceptional and remarkable work — even when we consider it in the context of the last twenty years of Czech literature. […] The novel is a lavish feast of different types of storytelling. Reminiscent of Rabelais, Sterne, Vančura but also Márquez and the whole of Latin American magic realism.”
— Petr A. Bílek, Respekt
“Martin Juhás or Czechoslovakia is a great novel. I’m not afraid to say that it will become a significant milestone in the development of historical literature.”
— Marek Dobrý, Lógr magazín