Josef Pánek (b. 1966) received his masters and PhD in Prague, Czech Rep., then worked in Norway and Australia, before finally returning to the Czech Republic. He debuted with a collection of short stories The Opal Digger (2013). His second book Love in the Time of Global Climate Change (2017) has won the Magnesia Litera prize this year.
February 2017, 160 pages
Available material: English sample, German sample
Rights sold: Poland (Stara szkola), Bulgaria (Iskry), Italy (Keller editore), Croatia (Umjetnička organizacija Artikulacije)
Remarkably dense and disturbing text from one of the most distinctive voices of contemporary Czech literature.
Love in the Time of Global Climate Change tells a tale of the global village we call Earth, the illogicality of racism and the unpredictable paths of the heart, and how we all fear change, while the greatest of all is taking place around us. The plot is straightforward: the protagonist, Tomáš, travels to attend a conference that takes place in Bangalore. He is a man struggling to pull himself together after a divorce, a scientist forced by our hectic, globalised world to learn to work with others and suppress his individuality for the sake of his research. A more or less chance encounter with an attractive Indian participant at the conference leads to a night of intense passion, both in terms of sex and conversation. The author’s playful ending leaves it to the reader’s imagination to decide what has really happened. But one ought not to dwell on the plot too much since what is more important in Love in the Time of Global Climate Change is that Pánek’s writing continues a tradition of Czech literature that started with Bohumil Hrabal and can be traced to more recent writers such as Emil Hakl and Jáchym Topol. This pedigree is apparent in the author’s relentless narration, story-telling for the sheer pleasure of story-telling, a verbal deluge sustained for pages on end, alternating between outright bragging 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,” i.e. outside 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.”