The title Of Kids & Parents describes the whole book quite well. Nothing better than a conversation between a seventy-two year old father and his forty-two year old son. About ninety percent of the book consists of this dialogue between the father and the son, and although such an obvious lack of action may seem hopelessly boring, it is, in fact, most entertaining to read about the anecdotes they both have to share with each other. The whole conversation takes place during a stroll through Prague and sitting in cafes, but contrary to expectations, it doesn’t give a good image of the city at all. Instead of following the ‘tourist’ route passing monuments and churches, the main characters walk through weary, derelict neighbourhoods and old, dusty streets.
The time that passes in the whole book can’t be more than a few hours; the book takes place on the late afternoon, evening, and night of a warm day in August. Although it would seem that the book would be way too short this way, the conversation makes up for that by ‘filling it up.’ The interesting thing is that instead of describing the characters conventionally, Hakl does so through the dialogue, and you get to know the characters by the things they say, rather than by the subjective eyes of the storyteller.
The conversation touches a myriad of topics, from women to memories of a lost childhood, memories from the father when he was young and lived in Croatia, from the Russian submarine Kursk to their favourite airplanes. Both speakers talk in Prague slang, which gives the conversation an even higher degree of realism and adds a certain charm to it. The layout of the whole dialogue is done in a very realistic fashion, with for example the subtle changes of topics, which happens in real conversations as well. Occasionally the conversation triggers the memory of the son and he plunges into flashbacks. It is a interesting to see in what manner the son reflects on the subjects that he and his father just have discussed. These flashbacks play an important role throughout the whole book and gives depth to the story. It is for instance funny to watch the son apologize to his father for something he had broken when he was a child, forty years earlier.
The book is a pleasure to read, primarily also because of its humour, in many places it is very funny.. The down-to-earth feeling of the novel and its intimate content puts it close to the reader, because the talk between the father and the son is one actually everyone should have once it is life with his parent of his child. With this novel, in which he has succeeded to depict in a unique way a portrait of two generations, Hakl has proven his quality as a writer.
“From Hašek to Hrabal…, Czech heretics have given satirical heft to the profane digressions of Bohemian boozers. Emil Hakl, a leading figure on Prague’s post-Soviet literary scene, belongs in their ironic company.”
—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
Selected published translations (10)
O rodzicach i dzieciach Polish
De padres e hijos Spanish
Of Kids & Parents English
Zoon & Vader Dutch
Treffpunkt Pinguinhaus German
Föräldrar och barn Swedish
Genitori e figli Italian
Om foreldre og barn Norwegian
Szülőkről és gyermekekről Hungarian
За родителите и децата Bulgarian