Written between 1954 and 1957 and treating events from the Stalinist era of Czechoslovakia’s postwar Communist regime, Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life flew in the face of the reigning aesthetic of socialist realism, an anti-heroic novel informed by the literary theory of Viktor Shklovsky and constructed from episodes and lyrical sketches of the author and his neighbors’ everyday life in industrial north Bohemia, set against a backdrop of historical and cultural upheaval.
Meditative and speculative reflections here alternate and overlap with fragmentary accounts of Jedlicka’s own biography and slices of the lives of people around him, typically rendered as overheard conversations. The narrative passages range in chronology from May 1945 to the early 1950s, with sporadic leaps through time as the characters go about the business of “building a new society” and the mythology that goes with it. Due to its critical view of socialist society, Midway remained unpublished until 1966, amid the easing of cultural control, but a complete version of this darkly comic novel did not appear in Czech until 1994.
“One of the outstanding works of 1950s Czech literature, Josef Jedlička’s Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life is a book of and out of its time […] His interrogation of the complicity of political, architectural, and literary structure makes this work important not only as a document of a neglected period of Czech literature, but as a stimulating piece of formal invention.”
— Kathryn Murphy, The Times Literary Supplement
“Bitterly parodies the techniques of ‘literature of fact’ in an attempt to show how the avant-garde’s utopian dreams of a new art for a new society were realized, paradigmatically in the northern Bohemian borderlands, in dystopian art for a dystopian society and landscape.”
— Rajendra Chitnis, University of Bristol