November 2016, 400 pages
Available material: English sample
Gripping, inspiring and enthralling story that skips from historical (and psychological) prose to apocalyptic sci-fi with magical elements.
Ondřej Štindl’s second novel probes liminal experience in three loosely interconnected stories, or novellas, that span the period from the end of WWII to the 1970s, taking us from the wild plains of Siberia to the subdued greyness of the communist Prague. The triptych of stories makes up an ambitious novel that is based on clashes of individuals with power that transcends them. Inevitably, all of them lose but in their loss, they find what frontier stands for — the liminal experience, the possibility to make a step beyond and to enjoy, albeit for a short moment, the moment of freedom. Štindl blends the personal with the public, and poignantly portrays individual destinies upon a background of historical events, in which he combines a love story with a bildungsroman, myth and a gunslinging tale. To the Frontier explores what it meant to take action during periods when it was simpler to be passive rather than fight against injustices. This marvellous novel demands the voracious reading.
“Štindl is a superb narrator with an unmistakable style, which is perfectly suited to the story being told. His writing is on the first impression detached, in places laconic, and free of moralising or an attempt to explain. His novel To the Frontier is an excellent and powerful book.”
“Štindl’s writing is like a cleaver held by a butcher in a bloody apron. Its chops are sharp and exact.”
— Hospodářské noviny
“They approached the city from the west. Through the material of his uniform, through the armour plating, his body reverberated from the engine; he liked the sweet and soothing smell of its fumes. He leaned back comfortably, closing his eyes to the onslaught of the sun, but the horsepower thudded in his ears. They really knew how to make an engine those Germans. Now they were going after them. Going to finish them off. Other smells began to penetrate the curtain of smoke, the smells of spring, of bloom and rot and the chaos of the countryside upon which they had let slip the metal of war. Stěpan breathed it all in. It was rising drowsily, dizzily, gathering its strength to chase a new dream or chimaera. But Stěpan stays motionless, snoozing in his place on the armour. Just then a sprig of lilac brushes his cheek. Strange that there is so much of it here.”