[ excerpt ]
also by the author:
Of Kids & Parents
On Flying Objects
about the translator:
Marek Tomin was born in Prague and grew up in England, where his family found refuge after being exiled in 1980 by the Communist regime. A graduate of Oxford University, he lives
in Prague where he works as a freelance translator, journalist, documentary producer, and contemporary art curator. His translations include Of Kids & Parents
by Emil Hakl, Pavel Z.'s Time Is a Mid-Night Scream, Glorious Nemesis by Ladislav Klíma,and the lyrics of the Plastic People of the Universe.
Read a profile here.
||the witch's flight
A Civilian's Adventure
by Emil Hakl
translated from the Czech by Marek Tomin
illustrated by Pavel Růt
An ordinary 39-year-old inhabitant of Prague, nothing to distinguish him from the nameless mass around him, except that for some inexplicable reason
he fatally stabs another faceless man in a supermarket, and the police have no leads. In some senses a contemporary Czech version of Raskolnikov, pangs of
conscience begin to beset him, and he muffles them by obsessively watching old films, relentlessly riding his bike, and taking hallucinogenics. A business
trip to Portugal gives him an opportunity to escape and push his problems at home out of mind. He tries to settle into a new life and learn some basic phrases from a
tourist dictionary, but after a year of living a tenuous existence, and a vain effort at
interpersonal contact – an unexpected relationship with a married woman, a Hungarian émigré, and her ersatz aunt from Budapest, who makes her living as a second-rate
fortune teller – he returns to Prague, to something even more momentous than what he has just left.
Hakl's dynamic narration sweeps us along on waves of roiling perception and flights of phantasmagoria. A master of the freshly-minted expression, of leavening
in hallucinatory passages with their own episodic meanderings, Hakl maintains throughout his characteristic humor and irony. This collage of episodes leaves
us with the impression that something is being sought, a fumbling through the dark toward a goal, but exactly what this could be is left vague, and it might
very well amount to nothing at all.
The novel is really more about undergoing an initiation than about a crime that has been committed. And the motif of initiation pops up more than once.
The initiatory "journey within" has, however, its mundane and at times disparaging aspects: a "virgin" whose virginity only applies to anal sex;
an old man obsessed with his silent, grotesque death vigil; a Hungarian fortune teller who may very well have supernatural abilities but doesn't hesitate to
swindle her trusting clients regardless. Ritual anointment is diminished by embarrassing moments; the absolution the protagonist receives upon his return to Prague is
played out behind the scenes of this "civilian's adventure," in a strip club of dubious quality.
approx. 290 pp.
14 x 20 cm
softcover with flaps
fiction : novel