Emil Hakl (b. 1958), writer, recipient of several literary awards. One of our most appreciated and widely translated contemporary authors, his books have been published in many languages. Hakl was awarded the Magnesia Litera – Best Prose for the novella O rodičích a dětech (Of Kids and Parents, 2002). In 2010, Hakl continued this dialogue between a father and a son and came up with his most successful book to date, Pravidla směšného chování (Rules of Ridiculous Behaviour, 2010), which won the Josef Škvorecký Award, was nominated for the Magnesia Litera in the prose category and came second in the Lidové noviny newspaper’s Book of the Year. Three years later he received his second Magnesia Litera Award for the novel Skutečná událost (A True Story, 2013).
CZECHIA’S HIGHEST LITERARY HONOUR – BOOK OF THE YEAR (2013, 2008)
November 2016, 248 pages
Available material: English sample, German sample, German translation
Foreign editions: Austria (Braumüller)
Hakl is a real literary talent, “the Hrabal of this time”. He needs little to create an atmosphere and characters.
Emil Hakl’s novel addresses a hot topic in science and technology – the creation of an artificial human – which has been central to sci-fi since Karel Čapek wrote R.U.R almost 100 years ago. Here humanity’s Frankenstein-like desire is to create a beautiful female android, the titular Uma. Hakl has achieved a remarkable melding of two genres, as the central point of the book is a classic tale of love. Two main characters are experiencing an intense relationship based on mutual affection, which eventually turns into an addiction of conspiratorial friendship and sex. The mixture of foreignness and intimacy is what makes Uma alluring. Uma is not a submissive partner. On the contrary, she is viewed as the more sophisticated personality, who has the situation in hand and ultimately has the final word on how the relationship will develop. The inscrutable robot becomes the embodiment of the essence of the female soul. This novel is written in the author’s typically efficient and fast-paced style.
“Hakl chose a brilliant topic for this book. Questions about how we will coexist with robots, androids and other technological creations are appealing for everyone.”
— MF Dnes
“Hakl has given the novel an appealing story, a clear structure, and functional relationships between the central characters and one dog. He switches naturally from writing in the first-person to the second-person and back again.”
— Hospodářské noviny
“Uma goes to sleep. That’s what the two of you call it. She lies down and adjusts her settings (you don’t know how, exactly, you prefer to stare at the ceiling), you talk for fifteen or thirty minutes before she shuts down. But she isn’t silent—she hums like an electric toy. Her toes twitch gently. She emits various smells. When she’s half asleep, she often busies herself by synchronizing her files, or at least that’s what she says she’s doing. You suspect that she’s just actively loafing. She learned it from you, and she’s learned that she enjoys it. Sometimes she lies and pretends to be sleeping, but she’s awake. It’s as though she’s waiting for something. She draws breath and she exhales. It’s a question of oxygen delivery, the same as for you. When you wake up in the middle of the night, she always startles you—a half meter away lies an immobile, artificial corpse. You go to the toilet, you drink some water. When you return, her eyes follow you—she’s responding to your motion and is already beginning to warm up.”