Alice Horáčková (b. 1980) has a master’s degree in social sciences from Prague’s Charles University and, for a number of years, was a literary editor for MF DNES, a major Czech daily. In 2008, she was awarded the European Journalistic Fellowship and spent a year in Berlin, studying at the Free University there. Her first book was an unconventional biography of a Czech Beat poetess Vladimíra Čerepková (2014), which was nominated for Magnesia Litera Prize as well as for the Josef Škvorecký prize. Her next book 7x in a Supporting Role (2016) features interviews with a siblings of famous Czech personalities, such as Václav Havel and Martina Navrátilová. Unopened Letters (2018) is her first work of fiction.
September 2018, 192 pages
This unusual memoir does not give the customary testimony about life under totalitarian rule.
Alena is a pretty girl with a quick wit and a painter‘s eye. After the Russian tanks roll into Prague in 1968, having printed anti-Soviet fliers on an underground press, she flees to Paris. Her jeweler father, who had been „reeducated“ in the uranium mines of Jáchymov, inserts a diamond into the heel of her shoe. Alena never even sells it there, breaks off a love affair with a Frenchman and returns to Prague. Firmly resolved never to marry, she ends up tying the knot with Jára – she is seven-month pregnant. Her husband is a renown painter, but he can’t even warm up a cup of soup. After the child is born, Alena has to bring home the bacon while helping her husband through his bouts with manic depression. But after his death, she finds a stack of unopened letters in his desk. The handwriting is feminine and aggressive, but why hadn’t Jára ever opened them? Does she feel like reading them? The letters are not the sole enigma of her life – Alena too has a secret of her own.
“Alena is no victim, but rather a tough chick with a mouth on her. And the way Horáčková shows her attitude and her sharp tongue is irresistibly charming. (…) One would like to laugh at the flood of charming, colloquial sentences, if deep down it wasn’t all so heart-breaking.”
– MF Dnes
“Alice Horáčková has really nailed this metamorphosis: Mrs. Alena is taking stock of her life with the generous wisdom of her age and with an often unexpectedly rough, yet always loving sense of humor (…) It will be no exaggeration if I say that in this book the stories from a real life have been transformed into a true novel.”
– Radio 3 – Vltava
“The third book a renown publicist is, in contrast to her previous books, a work of fiction. Alena the widow of a painter wonderfully sums up the socialist past of Czechoslovakia.”
“This unusual memoir does not give the customary testimony about life under totalitarian rule. Alena is unconventional not only with her spunk, but also by virtue of her other strong trait, to which she probably wouldn’t readily admit: humility. She possesses an incredible determination and the strength to overcome any obstacles, barring her way. The novel Unopened Letters has the feel of a found treasure.”
“Alice Horáčková’s first work of fiction is a pleasant surprise. (…) Unopened Letters is a strong book for our feeble times.”
– Týdeník Rozhlas