Jiří Kamen, Jan Macúch

Jiří Kamen (b. 1951) is a writer, cultural affairs commentator, and the author of radio dramas and documentaries. Graduating from Palacký University in Olomouc with an M.A. in Fine Arts, he joined Czechoslovak Radio in 1975. In 1989 he became Czechoslovak Radio’s director of programming for literature and drama; from 1991 to 1993 he was the director-general of Radio Vltava. With Blanka Stárková, he created the Vltava Weekend Supplement, which won the Quails Prize for journalism and which he directs and hosts to this day. Jiří is also the author of several books: A Less than Full Measure of Happiness (poetry), Wandering Horse (a biographical novel), The Other One is Me (a novella in the form of a novel), and It´s All the Cat´s Fault (a humorous novel on “pre-revolutionary” radio that also touches on the present day).

NOMINATION FOR THE TOP CZECH LITERARY AWARD MAGNESIA LITERA (2019)

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Elvis of the Elbe

June 2018, 264 pages

Available material: English sample

Short stories, horror tales, and études for solos and duets.

In this collection of twenty-four stories, the author focuses on breaking-points – both of individuals and society, which often run parallel, intersect, or reflect each other – exploring the beginnings of love and its end, investigating the mechanics of human relationships against the backdrop of various social situations. Kamen is an expert storyteller; his tales veer off into grotesque directions as characters in normal encounters find themselves in shocking situations: a man pressures his lover to dress up like his wife; another tells his former classmate that he’s decided to kidnap him; the widow and the mistress of a famous historian send the professor’s star student back and forth to each other’s bed.  The author maintains a delicate distance from his subjects, walking the tightrope between irony, parody, satire, and black comedy; stories that begin hyperrealistically suddenly cross into surreal and clownish escapades; horror and mystery pastiches gain surprising elements in the author’s translation. Jan Macúch, one of the Czech Republic’s most exciting post-Velvet Revolution painters, illustrates the collection with his own fascinating and startling work.

“Kamen is a remarkable storyteller – within such a short space he manages to narrate a family saga, incorporating a range of interesting and unusual motifs that never come off as implausible or clumsy.”

Host

From the sample translation

“Your husband died this afternoon. His body’s on the bed, room 8, Hotel Koruna on the main strip… No, I’m not kidding. I’m serious, unfortunately. I tried to revive him, but it didn’t work. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can tell when someone’s dead or not. Mirror under the nose, nothing, no pulse. I didn’t call a doctor, your husband didn’t want me to. He absolutely forbade it. He didn’t want to cause a scene. He was paranoid that something like this would happen. At least he was with me. He jumped out of bed naked a bunch of times to take his temperature. He brought a thermometer with him on our dates…  Yes, I’m his lover. No, I’m not going to tell you my name – I’m married. Not that it’s important, I wouldn’t tell you even if I were single. I was in love with him. If he’d have gotten a divorce, I would have too. He was old, sure, but he was in good shape.”

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