Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia
Melville House Publishing, Hardcover, 9781612193137, 276pp.
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
One of Europe's most preeminent investigative journalists travels to the Czech Republic--the Czech half of the former Czechoslovakia, the land that brought us Kafka--to explore the surreal fictions and the extraordinary reality of its twentieth century.
For example, there's the story of the small businessman who adopted Henry Ford's ideas on productivity to create the world's largest shoe company--and hired modernist giants such as Le Corbusier to design his company towns (which were also the birthplaces of Ivana Trump and Tom Stoppard).
Or the story of Kafka's niece, who loaned her name to writers blacklisted under the Communist regime so they could keep publishing.
Or the story of the singer Karel Gott, winner of the country's Best Male Vocalist Award thirty-six years in a row, whose summer home, "Gottland," is the Czech Dollywood.
Based on meticulous research and hundreds of interviews with everyone from filmmakers to writers to pop stars to ordinary citizens, "Gottland" is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a resilient people living through difficult and often bizarre times--equally funny, disturbing, stirring and absurd . . . in a word, Kafkaesque.
Antonia Lloyd-Jones is the pre-eminent translator of Polish reportage: the authors she has translated included Wojciech Tochman, Wojciech Jagielski, Jacek Hugo-Bader, and Witold Szabłowski. She has received the Found in Translation Award for translation from Polish twice, in 2008 and 2012.
Praise for Gottland
“An intelligent, captivating, and much-needed book.”
“A great book. Mariusz Szczygieł is well versed in the Polish school of reportage writing and he applies his method to this specific Czech ambiguity. Original and surprising.”
“Extraordinary, hypnotizing, and disturbing tales.”
“If you want to understand the Czech Republic in the twentieth century, read Gottland.”
—Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung
“Masterful prose . . . impressive.”
—Neue Zürcher Zeitung
“One of the most valuable and eloquent testimonies about the Czech people.”
—Právo (Czech Republic)