Josef Pánek (b. 1966) received his masters and PhD in Prague, then worked in Norway and Australia before returning to the Czechia He debuted with a collection of short stories, entitled The Opal Digger (2013). His second book, Love in the Time of Global Climate Change (Argo, 2017) won the Magnesia Litera, Czechia’s highest literary honour in 2018. So far, its rights have been sold to nine countries.
CZECHIA’S HIGHEST LITERARY HONOUR – BEST WORK OF FICTION (2018)
February 2017, 160 pages
Available material: English sample, German translation, French translation
Rights sold: Poland (Stara szkola), Bulgaria (Iskry), Italy (Keller editore), Croatia (Umjetnička organizacija Artikulacije), Egypt (Al Arabi), France (Éditions Denoël), Germany (KLAK Verlag), Serbia (Akademska Knjiga), Romania (Editura Casa Cartii de Stiinta)
Remarkably dense and disturbing text from one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary Czech literature.
Love in the Time of Global Climate Change tells a tale of the global village we call Earth: the fallacies of racism, the unpredictable paths of the heart and how humans fear change, while the greatest transformation of all is occurring around us. The plot is straightforward: the protagonist, Tomáš, travels to attend a scientific conference in Bangalore. Recently divorced, he struggles doubly to work with others for the sake of research in an increasingly globalised world. A chance encounter with an attractive Indian participant at the conference leads to a night of lush intellectual passion.
Pánek’s writing pushes forth a tradition of Czech literature beginning with Bohumil Hrabal, and traceable through the work of recent writers such as Emil Hakl and Jáchym Topol. The author’s relentless narration delights in storytelling. Here is a verbal deluge sustained for pages on end, alternating between swagger and masochistic self-denigration. At the same time, Pánek’s writing shows a kinship with writers such as Josef Škvorecký, particularly in the portrayal of life “elsewhere,” departed from the Czech environment.
“Pánek’s novel disconcerts the reader with its linguistic abrasiveness and the self-destructive, self-centred approach of its main protagonist. It is as agitated and intoxicating as the exotic city in which it takes place.”
“Readers should take note of this novel, which takes Czech literature into the European league.”
– Visegrad Insight
“You’ve never been to India – imagine that. Now you find yourself in Bangalore, in the middle of the noise, the stink, the traffic chaos and an endless crowd of people that you’ve no defence against, you’re frightened, disgusted and overwhelmed. You get out of the street into the safety of your hotel, but you still hear the noise, smell the stink, you are disgusted and excited at the same time, you want to understand, you’ve never experienced anything like this in your life. OK, you summon the courage to walk out of the hotel and walk straight into something you think is a slum, having no idea what the slum is and how far you are from it. Anyway, in a clumsy and dense crowd of men in traditional clothing and women in the sari, you see an Indian girl wearing an ordinary T-shirt with jeans, she represents the only normal, familiar object to you in the surrounding turmoil, so you take her picture. She notices and tells you in fluent, perfect English to delete her picture. You shrug and do what she wants, and immediately forget the whole episode.”