Central European fantastic – Czech and Hungarian edition

I have already written a little bit about Polish fantasy writing in reviewing The Polish Book of Monsters, so now here is something from the fantastical side of the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Czech monsters

At the Czech Literature portal there is a long outline of Czech fantasy, dating back to its pre-1989 origins and including descriptions of various sub-genres such as splatterpunk, heroic fantasy and military sci-fi. They write that the formerly dominant style of writing in the genre, “Čapek-style” science fiction, has virtually disappeared since the ‘80s but that it hasn’t been because of Tolkien-style epic fantasy, which hasn’t caught on, as Czech readers prefer less bombast and more parody and humor than that style typically contains.

(I can’t help connecting the lack of popularity in Tolkien-style writing with a conversation I overheard in a Prague café in the early ‘90s. An American concert promoter was in anguish over the fact that he couldn’t get the Grateful Dead a show in Prague, because the Czechs didn’t like their music, far preferring The Velvet Underground. This might have been the moment I decided to stay here.)

The article provides an excellent list of writers in various styles of fantasy writing and points out how little of it has been translated so far. The only works that have made it into English are what they describe as “the only true bestseller in Czech fantasy literature,” Jiří Kulhánek’s Night Club (Noční klub) and a short story by Juraj Červenák in Weird Tales.

The Night Club is about a shadowy, secret organization in Prague that ruthlessly punishes evildoers. The idea of evildoers in Prague being punished definitely belongs to the realm of fantasy.

Central European folk surrealism

At Hungarian Literature Online there is a profile of writer Ervin Lázár (1936–2006), whose style is described as Central European folk surrealism to distinguish it somewhat from magical realism. Lázár wrote both children’s books and plays, as well as work for adults such as a political thriller titled A fehér tigris (The White Tiger).

Almost none of Lázár’s work is available in English, though there have been translations into a number of European languages. Now, translator Judith Sollosy has brought Lázár’s short story collection The Little Town of Miracles into English and is looking for a publisher.

Sollosy edited and translated the Hungarian issue of Words Without Borders in August 2010, which included the haunting story “The China Doll”(“A porcelánbaba”). The same story served as the title of a Hungarian feature film based on the same collection titled “The Porcelain Doll.”

Photos – 1) Cover of Ervin Lázár’s A fehér tigris, 2) Ervin Lázár by Dániel Kertész/uploaded to Wikimedia as Vangogh

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