A young author describes the trials, burdens and dramas of family life
Intimate family relationships and relationships between partners are the traditional domain of slushy novels for women and girls. High-quality literature used to be a little wary of such themes, even disdainful of them. So attention is heightened when an author is able to grasp them in a way which is anything but straightforward, sentimental and traditional.
Petra Soukupová succeeds in all this in her very first book, K moři (To the Seaside). In her latest collection of three long stories, too, family relations are the central theme. This time the author has chosen to style the child as hero. In the first two stories the children are narrators, in the third, one of the narrators is already an adult, but her memories of childhood are focused. In all the stories the heroes are trying to cope with family trauma which distances them from their loved ones and forces them to search for their own identity and place within the family. But we are not dealing here with dramatic, filmic twists serving to turn the heroes’ lives inside out: the real existential dramas are played out within the characters themselves. The author is capable of drawing the reader into a space so intimate that he/she is able to share even the subtlest inner movements and look at them as real existential dramas. It may seem somewhat paradoxical that the language of the narrative tends to have an alienating effect, working like the cold eye of a camera; but by this means, too, Petra Soukupová shows off her talent as a storyteller. The new work with the succinct title To Disappear has assumed a position in contemporary Czech literature which will not appeal to readers who favour the straightforward, as it will force them to think about less dramatic moments in their lives. But one finds such things at the heart of all good literature.
Read an English excerpt here.
“[…] its children’s-eye view of families, rare in much of what we read from Europe, is fresh and touching.”
— Alex Zucker, Literary Hub
Selected published translations (3)