“The deepest graves are in Belarus. But nobody knows of them. This is why you are here!”
Through Cold Land (Chladnou zemí, 2009), is the last novel from one of the leading contemporary Czech writers Jáchym Topol, already translated into all major languages and awarded with the prestigious Czech literary award “Jaroslav Seifert” (2010).
This surreal dark humor novel starts in Terezin, a place in present day Czechia where, during the Habsburg Empire, the most modern military base was built and which the Nazis turned into a “transit camp” during WWII. From here, people (mainly Jews) were taken by train to Auschwitz. After the fall of the communist regime, few inhabitants of this forgotten and deserted place, under leadership of the main character who is also the fictional storyteller and his mentor uncle Ilko come up with an idea how to take commercial advantage of growing interest from foreign tourists for this, now desolate, place of tragic human suffering and casualties.
Soon, many souvenir shops, restaurants and even discotheques are opened in Terezin, while the main character (whose name we never learn) receives an offer to apply his commercial business project in Belarus, a country where “the devil had his workshop” and where “the deepest graves that no one knows about” are. This is where Topol’s novel gets a new, completely macabre dimension…
Author: Jáchym Topol
Translator: Mirna Stehlíková Đurasek