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. Her first book was an unconventional biography of Czech Beat poetess Vladimíra Čerepková (2014), which was nominated for Magnesia Litera Prize as well as the Josef Škvorecký prize. Her next book 7x in a Supporting Role (2016) features interviews with 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
Available material: English sample, German sample
This unusual memoir is not the standard 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 jeweller father, who had been “re-educated” in the uranium mines of Jáchymov, inserts a diamond into the heel of her shoe. Alena refuses to sell it there, breaks off a love affair with a Frenchman and returns to Prague. Firmly resolved never to marry, she finds herself seven-month pregnant and ends up tying the knot with Jára, a renowned painter who 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 of manic depression. 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 has a secret of her own.
“Alice Horáčková has really nailed this metamorphosis: Mrs Alena is taking stock of her life with the generous wisdom of age and with an unexpectedly rough, yet always loving, sense of humour.”
– Radio 3 – Vltava
“The third book of the renowned journalist 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 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
“What were we talking about? That’s right, the diploma. Well, I didn’t much enjoy school. What good is a matriculation diploma if you don’t get taken in at least once in your life? Although I graduated with distinction, I was far more interested in my placement. I don’t suppose you know how that worked. Well, at the National Committee office, they looked at your ‘materials’ and who you knew before choosing a job for you. And as old Doležalová was still the concierge of our building and I was still the daughter of an enemy of the people, I was summoned to the Municipal House, where they sent me to the second floor. I knocked on the door and a voice shouted from inside: ‘What do you want?”