translated from the Czech by David Short
illustrated by Kamil Lhotak
Written in 1935 at the height of Czech Surrealism but not published until 1945, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
is a bizarre erotic fantasy of a young girl's maturation into womanhood on the night of her first menstruation. Referencing Matthew Lewis's The Monk, Marquis de Sade's Justine, K. H. Macha's May,
F. W. Murnau's film Nosferatu, Nezval employs the language of the pulp serial novel to construct a lyrical,
menacing dream of sexual awakening involving a vampire with an insatiable appetite for chicken blood, changelings,
lecherous priests, a malicious grandmother, and an androgynous merging of brother with sister.
In his Foreword Nezval states: "I wrote this novel out of a love of the mystique in those ancient tales, superstitions and romances,
printed in Gothic script, which used to flit before my eyes and declined to convey to me their content." Part fairy tale, part
Gothic horror, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a meditation on youth and age, sexuality and death — an exploration
of the grotesque that juxtaposes high and low genres, with shifting registers of language and moods that was a trademark of the Czech
avant-garde. The 1970 film version is considered one of the outstanding achievements of Czech new-wave cinema.
This edition includes the first edition's original six black-and-white illustrations from Kamil Lhotak, a
member of Group 42.
The book is a tour de force in that Nezval adopts the genre of the pulp novel for his own arch purposes.
Have literary historians noticed that it is a precursor of some of our own aesthetic concerns, in other words a sort of pre-postmodern fantasy?
— John Taylor, The Antioch Review
Gothic sleazefest, menstrual fantasy, dime-store pulp fiction—Valerie and Her Week
of Wonders is a collage of a collage of a collage, a dream of a dream, an important early-century surrealist
novel only now translated from its native Czech into English by the able David Short.
— New York Press
The work is a fantastic romp through a field of surreal visions and juxtaposed imagery. ...
David Short's translation maintains an excellent rhythm throughout the novel.
— Slavic and East European Journal
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders reclaims the irrational from its exiled
state through the use of hybrid form and surreal content. The text enables us to dream about what
it might be like to be more than our fears, limitations, and distractions by calling into question
our personal limits. David Short's beautiful translation reminds us that dealing with meaning in
the contemporary world is a very funny and always disturbing adventure — one that may help us live
more bravely if we are willing to dance with the unfamiliar.
—Selah Saterstrom, American Book Review
Somewhere between the existential fables of Franz Kafka and the macabre
animations of Jan Svankmajer lies Vitezslav Nezval. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
reminded me of a hyperactive Hammer Horror film as directed by Louis Bunuel.
— The Absinthe Literary Review
A real curiosity: a surrealist novel masquerading as a gothic thriller ... a rare book that exists in its own indefinable
category. ... This makes for a pulpy tale that reads like something else entirely; what that something is I'm not entirely sure, but it's
rich, thoughtful and profoundly strange.