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Twisted Spoon Press

PO Box 21 - Preslova 12, 150 21 Prague 5, Czech Republic

Book details:
The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch

[ excerpt ]


Czech writing

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hardcover edition

also by the author:
Glorious Nemesis

  the sufferings of prince sternenhoch

by Ladislav Klíma

translated from the Czech by Carleton Bulkin

afterword by Josef Zumr
frontispiece by Michal Vavrečka

Philosopher, novelist, essayist, madman, no Czech writer has had a greater impact on underground culture than Ladislav Klíma (1878-1928). Mentor to artists as diverse as Bohumil Hrabal and the Plastic People of the Universe, Klíma's approach to philosophy was similar to that of the sages of ancient India: philosophy should not be limited to speaking or writing about it, it should be lived. Adopting Nietzsche as his paragon, he embarked on a lifelong pursuit to become God, or Absolute Will, and he developed his conception of radical subjectivism in numerous essays, aphorisms, prose works, and plays.

The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch is the apotheosis of Klíma's philosophy. In a series of journal entries, the novel chronicles the descent into madness of Prince Sternenhoch, the German Empire's foremost aristocrat and favorite of the Kaiser. Having become the "lowliest worm" at the hands of his deceased wife Helga, the Queen of Hells, Sternenhoch eventually attains an ultimate state of bliss and salvation through the most grotesque form of perversion. Klíma explores here the paradoxical nature of pure spirituality with a humor that is as darkly comical as it is obscene. This volume, the first of Klíma's work to appear in English translation, also includes his notorious screed "My Autobiography."


What others say:

The non-conformist work of Ladislav Klíma has almost always shocked, has often incited scandal, but has hardly ever left us indifferent. One need not accept his view of the world to experience it and enjoy it in all of its ambiguity, just as one does the stage.

— Václav Havel

Sternenhoch's antics are by turns depraved and dark, and hugely comical ... Klima's vast talent is more than capable of handling the task of chronicling Sternenhoch's descent into madness.

— Damian Kelleher, Neon

What I do want to acknowledge before I conclude is just how readable, how relentlessly entertaining, I found all this to be.

Books, Yo

The grotesque and the sublime, the extravagant and the playful, run through this novel breathlessly written by a philosopher who wanted to recover his health.

Le Monde

As a story of one man's madness, this work is up there with Dostoevsky and Kafka, though with a bitter sense of humor and absurdist, almost maniacal outlook on life.

The Modern Novel

It is a classic darkly comic and obscenely funny piece of writing, — not for everyone but a wild excursion indeed. True black humor.


The tone of the book is serious, but not without humour and irony. The context is hilarious. The author gave the work the subtitle: A Grotesque. The structure, the building of this work and its theme, where the ego battles with evil and logic, refers to the literary tradition of Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky and Gogol's Diary of a Madman.


Ladislav Klima's The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch: A Grotesque Tale of Horror delivers on its title. It has everything; a decadent noble of questionable intelligence and sanity; a twisted, depraved, satanic shrew; not so graphic lewdness; dungeons, murder, madness... It is frankly, at times, difficult to stomach; and I have read The 120 Days of Sodom — more than once.

Adventures in Nerdliness!

The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch may transmit the author's moral nihilism and Nietzschean will to power as well as any treatise. It is a hilarious, provocative, graphic — and at times spectacularly vile — gothic novel, conspicuously rooted in the Decadent milieu that spawned it, but painted in colors more characteristic of the Expressionist and Surrealist movements regnant when it was finally published two decades later. ... Klíma's entry since then into the Czech canon, to say nothing of his importance to artists as varied as Bohumil Hrabal, Jiri Kolar and the Plastic People of the Universe, more than warrants the scrupulous care that Bulkin and Twisted Spoon have dedicated to this welcome translation.

Slavic and East European Journal

Klíma's tale reads like a book that Edgar Allan Poe might have written if he'd read Nietzsche, but there are also moments of reverie that are pure Czech ... Klíma's rambunctious mix of high and low style and holy and profane content has been stamped indelibly on the Czech literary tradition.

Washington City Paper

There's much of the whip in all this, a great fascination with all things perverse ... Much scabrous wit and the hallucinatory nature of events leave the reader uncertain about taking anything seriously. Appended is the author's autobiography, in which he turns out to be as pathological as any of his characters, a genuine transgressive in the manner of de Sade.

Publishers Weekly

A dark, diverting entertainment, certainly out of the ordinary ... [Klíma] was a decidedly odd bloke, a real character. But he was not a stupid man, and he could write. This volume is apparently the first book of Klíma's to appear in English. Certainly he is an author deserving wider recognition in the English-speaking world.

The Complete Review

Given the power of Carleton Bulkin's excellent translation, I can only hope that Twisted Spoon or some other publisher sees fit to soon translate more of Klíma's works — fiction or philosophy ... The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch runs with gale-force intensity and speed.

The Education Digest


ISBN 9788086264332
244 pp.
13.5 x 19.5 cm
softcover with flaps
full-color frontispiece
fiction : novel + autobio

release dates:
UK: December 2007
US: January 2008

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