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Jan Němec: Zgodovina svetlobe - SOVRETOVA NAGRADA 2019

Jan Němec
Zgodovina svetlobe
Roman o fotografu Františku Drtikolu

Translated by Tatjana Jamnik
506 pages
Format: 129 x 198 mm
Published by KUD Police Dubove
Year of publication: 2017
Series: Eho, 16
ISBN 978-961-7020-21-2
ISBN 978-961-7020-25-0 (epub)
Retail price: 24,90 €
Discount price: 19,90 €
E-book price: 6,99 €

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SOVRE PRIZE 2019 (to Tatjana Jamnik for translation)

Have you ever wondered what a story written by a beam of light would be like? First, the story would be ordinary but the course of events extraordinary; second, its hero would be a photographer, a guardian of light; third, naturally it would be full of shadow. So who was František Drtikol? A dandy from a small mining town, a world-famous photographer whose business went bankrupt, a master of the nude who never had much luck with women, a mystic and a Buddhist who believed in communism; a man whose many contradictions showed outwardly and were synthesized inwardly. The conception of Jan Němec’s extensive novel is very unusual for contemporary Czech prose – fresco-like, it is an artistic and spiritual Bildungsroman that covers over half a century, bringing to life the silver mines of Přibram, Jugendstil Munich and First Republic Bohemianism, with naked models wandering along the lines and light merging unobserved with knowledge …

From reviews
I’m certain that Jan Němec’s novel A History of Light is unrivalled in current Czech literature. And I’d even argue that it’s a beacon which Czech literature has been lacking for a long time.

Jiří Kratochvil, writer, ČT art

The whole novel therefore represents a remarkable and substantial experiment, offering an account about Drtikol, the history of photography as a new art form, the cultural climate of the incredibly interesting and turbulent period around the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the First World War and the 1920s, but also about the narrative possibilities of contemporary novels. And as I’ve already mentioned Illies’s novel 1913: The Year Before the Storm, it’s worth adding that Jan Němec has written a more than worthy Czech counterpart. Not only because of his ability to incorporate all the topics mentioned above into one novel in a sophisticated yet playful manner, but also because of an almost mysterious feature – the novel never loses its pace and is very hard to put down even after 400 pages.

Petr A. Bílek, Respekt

I read this novel as a manifestation of a genre which is very fertile in the world but which is more or less absent in Czech literature, a biographical novel, which combines presenting the facts and myths about the life of a personality with the attempt to portray the hero’s life as a series of extraordinary and remarkable events, aiming at higher quality.

Pavel Janoušek, Host

Co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
The book was published in the frame of cultural project which is co-funded by Slovenian Book Agency.
Co-funded by the Ministry of Culture of Czech Republic.

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