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by Marek Šindelka

translated from the Czech by Nathan Fields

artwork by Petr Nikl

The remarkable debut novel from Marek Šindelka, already the recipient of his country's major literary awards for poetry (Jiří Orten Prize) and prose (Magnesia Litera), Aberrant is a multifaceted work that mixes and mashes together a variety of genres and styles to create a heady concoction of crime story, horror story (inspired by the Japanese tradition of kaidan), ecological revenge fantasy, and Siberian shamanism. Nothing is what it seems. What appears to be human is actually a shell occupied by an alien spirit, or demon, and what appears to be an unassuming plant is an aggressive parasite that harbors a poisonous substance within, or manifests itself as an assassin, a phantom with no real substance who pursues his victims across Europe and through a post-apocalyptic Prague ravaged by floods. The blind see, and the seeing are blind. Plants behave like animals, and animals are symbionts with plants. Through these devices, Šindelka weaves a tale of three childhood friends, the errant paths their lives take, and the world of rare plant smuggling — and the consequences of taking the wrong plant — to show the rickety foundation of illusions on which our relationship to the environment, and to one another, rests. It is a world of aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes.


A chilling an intellectually stimulating tale, told through beautiful prose and elegant narrative poetry – lovingly translated by Nathan Fields – Aberrant draws you deep into its tight knit web, and makes you realise that you have probably tasted the poison that in some way or another pervades all our lives.

— West Camel, European Literature Network

The story unfolds, appropriately, like some over-nourished plant, with roots and tendrils inexorably spreading in all directions and over the years, entangling, penetrating—and frequently strangling. Aberrant is by turns lyrical, poignant, and visceral—all fertilised by the author’s wide-ranging poetic imagination.

— John Howard, Wormwood

Unsettling and disturbing, Aberrant blurs the (already fuzzy) line between reality and illusion.

— Rachel Cordasco, Book Riot

Impressively, Šindelka sustains the narrative tension, and the story – largely by balancing evocative description with just enough (often slightly strange and mysterious) action. [...] Meanwhile, the mysterious plant at the heart of the novel, and its nature, are guardedly revealed over the course of the story, so that it is always a sort of significant and dark presence, yet whose full import – its true essence, and their consequences – is only fully understood near the end.

— M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

From its opening panorama to its dire final chapters, Aberrant reads like an art-house thriller. Ripe and vivid, this first novel is a testament to Šindelka’s skill and meticulous research, as well as his honest esteem for an often ignored but ever-present natural world. One closes the book feeling fatigued and uneasy, just as intended. We can look forward to English translations of the author’s later works, including an award-winning novel on the refugee crisis, to combine Aberrant’s audacity with the assuredness and restraint of a writer reaching maturity.

— Hannah Weber, Necessary Fiction

Šindelka’s writing is truly something to behold, and that’s why the book is worth reading [...] what makes it work are the long passages in which the author describes train stations, flooded cities, greenhouses, and the plants therein [...] the language is crisp and clear and frankly quite beautiful, a tribute to both the author and Nathan Fields, the translator.

World Literature Today

Think Orlean’s The Orchid Thief on acid. It’s all kinds of funky, and in the hands of a lesser writer (and translator), it could have been little more than a hot, indulgent mess. But Šindelka never loses his thread, which is saying something about a novel wherein losing the thread is part of the point. We’re on shaky ground in 2017, people, and Šindelka’s world of ‘aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes’ feels unnervingly timely, and is enormously fun in the bargain. Everyone wins.

— M. Bartley Seigel, WWB Daily

The plant world constitutes a specific milieu in the novel and recalls [Michal] Ajvaz's The Other City, which is visible only to those who wish to see it ...

— iLiteratura.cz

Aberrant by Marek Šindelka is a brilliantly written and ingeniously constructed novel ... when finished the reader is left with a liberating feeling of catharsis befitting the dramas of antiquity and medieval legends.

— Czech Radio


ISBN 9788086264509
220 pp., 140 x 200 mm
softcover with flaps
5 b/w drawings
fiction : novel

cover by Dan Mayer

UK: April 2017
US: June 2017

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