Michal Vrba (b. 1976) originates from a small village in East Bohemia. He teaches social sciences at a secondary school in Ústí nad Labem. He has been writing since his childhood, mostly short stories. In 2014 he wrote Hontolini, the Strange Tales of a Baker and Occasional Agent. The Slingshot is his first longer text.
December 2016, 188 pages
Available material: English sample
The most accomplished Czech debut, combining the compelling theme of the occupation, literary talent and an ability to narrate a gripping tale.
The psychological novel The Slingshot, set in the period of the German occupation, narrates the tale of a journalist who sold himself to the Nazi powers and subsequently decided to compensate for his failures by committing a brutal, radical act which could lead to his execution. However, it is far from certain as to whether this flash of resistance will help him clear his name after the war. In the second part, we follow the destiny of fifteen-year-old Alena, who at the beginning of the 1960s discovers the journalist’s memoirs in a forest chalet by the Hamry reservoir. What was his fate? What relationship does her mother have to this man? And above all – why does the mere mention of him drive the Communist apparatchik who is spending the night with both women at the chalet into such a fit of rage? This thrilling debut by Michal Vrba is breathtaking reading, full of reversals and unexpected revelations, whilst at the same time a disturbing testimony on how the age we live in warps human characters, and of how complicated it is to reconcile oneself with one’s own conscience and remain morally pure.
“A refined tale of good and evil, of fear, guilt, crime and punishment, of cowardice and courage, collaboration and betrayal, as well as the manipulation of people in the name of politics. It could easily become the theme for a commercial film.”
“Thematically ambitious work: a thrilling tale, fully imbued with the weight of history, situated in the period of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and then later in the year 1960. This is a debut worthy of attention.”
— Lidové noviny
“In that expanse of peculiar time, I could see throughout the silent and unnaturally fast projectile. I saw its entire trajectory as it flew, side on, through the air, heading straight below his chin, and I saw it land, on the throat of the man before me, releasing all its crushing energy. It came to an almost complete halt. And then it fell onto the steps as if Herman had dropped it in an absence of mind. The sight of Glocke himself was no less impressive. His head jerked back, just as I’d seen it with Horst. His hand, instead of going for the hidden gun, carried on up to his neck, joined at once by his other hand. His leather briefcase went tumbling down the steps. His sturdy military legs came unstuck but still managed, unguided by their master, to complete the shaky descent to the landing where they lost their momentum. It was like watching a ghost. There, at the instant when he tripped, almost beside me, perhaps only a couple of metres away, stood Herman Glocke miraculously arrested in space. The man who had promised to see me dead…”