Zuzana Říhová (b. 1981) studied Czech Language and Literature and Comparative Literature at the Charles University in Prague. She has been working at the Institute of Czech Literature (Czech Academy of Sciences) since 2007 and was Head of Czech Studies at the University of Oxford from 2014–2017. Říhová, who has a lifelong interest in Czech avantgarde literature, has published a collection of poetry, I’ll Let You in My House (Pustím si tě do domu , 2016), and a novella, Little Eve (Evička, 2018), which was named as one of the Books of the Year in 2018 by a Czech literary web magazine.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE GREATEST LITERARY PRIZE IN CZECHIA (2022)
September 2021, 248 pages
Available material: English sample
Strange accidents and unnerving incidents in the Czech countryside. A village novel you will want to read in the safe embrace of the city.
Husband and wife Bohumil and Bohumila, together with their mentally disabled son, move from Prague to a small village in the borderlands to work out their marital crisis. In the searing summer heat, they try to fit in among the locals; at first, they blame small misunderstandings on their own strangeness and lack of capacity to understand the social codes of the village. The sense of danger grows, though, as the lies, small and big, the “accidents” and the unnerving incidents all start piling up. They suspect that each night, a large animal wanders around their cottage at the bottom of a ravine, an impression that oddly corresponds to the mysterious flyers they keep finding in the local watering hole, regarding a wolfen fairytale. One night, Bohumil and Bohumila come home to find the house empty: their son is gone. The series of uncanny events culminates on the third day after the boy’s disappearance when all the villagers gather outside the couple’s cottage in festive costumes. Did the local country bumpkins’ bizarre game turn into some perverse, modern folklore ritual? Are the lives of Bohumil and Bohumila in danger? And what has happened to their son?
“When it comes to this piece of prose, it’s not a platitude to say that it hurts to read the words; it’s as if they were cutting into you, making you fear turning the page. But the suspense in this horror is by no means pleasurable – the novel shows the horrors of how characters on both sides of the scales live, or rather languish, the horrors of what the future holds for them, and of whether there is a chance for any of them to steer their life in a different direction.”
“Zuzana Říhová’s novel Through Pins or Needles does not shy away from human shadows in wolf’s clothing. And the other way around. This linguistically refined, brutally evocative novel from a strangely timeless present sets off a chamber drama set in a Czech village.”
“It is a truly spellbinding novel, an effect Říhová manages to achieve several ways, which will be discussed in more detail below. First and foremost, it is the rich, fresh, and dense language, her skillful use of suspense and mystery, and finally, the more general archetypal overlap of the narrative.”
– Deník N
“Through Pins or Needles is a truly impressive debut novel. It is one of the most original additions to Czech prose in recent times, and undoubtedly one of the most remarkable pieces of prose of the year.”
– Ladislav Nagy