Alena Wagnerová (b. 1936) is a Czech-German writer and columnist. Since 1969 she has lived in Saarbrücken and Prague and works as a writer, translator and publisher. She won particular acclaim for her essay about the resistance group Předvoj, Neohlížej se, zkameníš (Don’t Look Back or You’ll Turn to Stone, 1968), and then for the novel Dvojitá kaple (The Double Chapel; German 1982, Czech 1991) and biographies of Sidonie Nádherná, Milena Jesenská and Jiří Weil. In the books Odsunuté vzpomínky (Expelled Memories), Neodsunuté vzpomínky (Unexpelled Memories) and A zapomenuti vejdeme do dějin (And the Forgotten Will Go Down in History) she records the oral history of Sudeten Germans. She is a winner of the Pelikán 2005 and Gratias Agit 2017 awards; this is her first book for child readers.
Jitka Němečková (b. 1963) graduated from the Technical College of Graphic Arts in Prague and worked at the Pressfoto publishing company and as an advertising graphic artist at DTP studios. One of her outstanding smaller works is a cycle of illustrations for the exhibition at the Visitor Centre of the Podyjí National Park. She created a set of 30 fine press works for the Spanish publishing house Pandora, each of which contains 25 scenes summarizing the history of Andalusia (in the pipeline). She contributed illustrations to the collection of fairy tales Vánoční kniha (The Christmas Book, 2012) and also makes jewellery.
by Alena Wagnerová, Jitka Němečková (ill)
March 2017, 44 pages
Available material: English sample
Not a fantasy game, but a book for children, that in words and pictures brings to life a unique tale of overcoming of evil without violence.
The renowned writer Alena Wagnerová has adapted the inspiring Provençal legend of Saint Martha. In fairy tales and legends, battling with dragons has as a rule been a matter for men, but this legend presents an exception. As recorded in the manuscript Legenda aurea (Golden Legend), which preserved this Provençal parable for the centuries to come, Saint Martha of Bethany overpowered the dragon Tarasque, which devoured cattle, horses and people, and destroyed fields and crops, without any weapons, using only twigs held in the shape of a cross and sweet singing, after which she tied him to her girdle and set off towards the town walls with it. The annual procession in honour of this saint has become part of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. However, in the story people’s anger got the better of them, and they began to throw stones at the dragon and killed him. This economical yet eloquent adaptation of the material penned by Alena Wagnerová is elevated by the drawings, whose orange light above the brown figures stimulates the goodness of the heart. After all, tolerance doesn’t require a miracle.
“This book with illustrations by Jitka Němečková poses difficult questions. Is violence ever justified? Where does justice end and revenge begin? And how are we influenced by fear? The positive aspect of the book is that it does not obscure the complex ethical issue with easy answers.”