Michal Vrba (b. 1976) comes from a small village in East Bohemia. He has been writing since his childhood, mostly short stories. The Slingshot (Argo, 2016) was the most accomplished Czech debut of the year, taking literary talent and narrative skill to a gripping tale about occupation.
September 2019, 178 pages
Available material: English sample
A quiet spot in the forest where cruelties transpire
Inidividual stories of little men in the maelstrom of great historical events, set against the backdrop of historical turning points and societal transformations from the Thirty Years’ War to the 1990s. History disrupts the protagonists’ lives in fundamental, sometimes fatal ways, whether by their own determination, or by unfortunate circumstance. When one’s very existence is at risk, least relevant are the original intentions of those who set the wheels of history in motion. Children get caught in a war with the Swedes; a small village farmer is threatened by the Red Army; vigilantes hunt down a prominent politician– and more. Their lives are all connected by a pond named Jakub.
Michal Vrba is very skilful at building up the atmosphere of his short stories. His greatest strength is probably his ability to incorporate his narration with the historical time in which his stories take place. The author employs historical milestones plausibly portrayed by plot and characters who are always in the foreground.
– ČT ART
The collection is elaborate and consistently built up, delivering surprising points and a strong overall impression.
“He listened to the sounds outside. He hadn’t gotten used to all those new murmurs, the wind searching the ruin for flappy unstuck bits and making them speak, he wasn’t accustomed to the splashes of water hitting the collapsed torso of the mill wheel. Even the stream itself had a different speed now, as it was running into new obstacles, its sound had changed, too. He wasn’t used to the stifling smells filling his nose – the sharp reek of the burnt-out area, the stench of mud and dead, rotting fish over there by the wrecked sluice gate, at the deepest spot of the drained pond.”