Jedlicka in B O D Y

Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life by Josef Jedlička, written between 1954 and 1957, might seem, on the surface, like a novel an English-language reader has some experience of. After all, Kundera and Hrabal have written of the Stalinist 50s – (Hrabal-readers most recently being granted access to his short stories from the 50s Mr. Kafka: And Other Tales from the Time of the Cult in Paul Wilson’s translation from the Czech).

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Yet as Rajendra Chitnis writes in the afterword to the Jedlička novel, “no other text in the period, however, goes further than Jedlička’s in its uncompromising indictment of Czechoslovak Stalinism in practice, its expression of the culpability of intellectuals, and its still resonant characterization of the experience as symptomatic of a broader, destructively materialist direction taken in twentieth-century Europe.”

With its title taken from Dante’s Inferno, Jedlička shows the Northern Bohemian industrial site where Communism was supposed to create a utopia a kind of hell with its own terrible beauty, making it, as Chitnis refers to it, “one of the most original and important works of Czech literature since 1945.”

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Categories: Saturday European Fiction

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