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Aviaries

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Czech writing


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  aviaries

by Zuzana Brabcová

translated from the Czech by Tereza Novická

frontispiece by Rybka


Aviaries is a novella composed of random diary entries, vignettes, dreams, observations, interior monologues, meditations, short anecdotes, newspaper headlines, and excerpts from poetry and prose, central among which is
a passage from C.G. Jung's essay on the Kore. All these elements meld together in a collapse of time to create,
similar to the work of Unica Zürn and Leonora Carrington,
a phantasmagoria of the life of a woman navigating a city indifferent to those living on the margins. Interactions with other residents of Prague’s Smíchov district, characters who might be figments of her imagination, and the other women
in her life – infirm mother, artsy sister, absent, dumpster-diving daughter – have reached a point where fantasy and reality seamlessly merge. The death of Václav Havel in 2011 provides the opening, and from there the prose throbs in a kaleidoscope of contemporary news reports, flights of hallucination, wordplay, and metaphoric association to testify to what it is like to be alone and lost and indigent in a world that has stopped making sense. It is an unsparing vision of present-day Prague where life has become a morass of the bizarre and the grotesque.

Brabcová’s final novel before her unexpected death, Aviaries received the Josef Škvorecký Award in 2016 for best prose of the year and was shortlisted for the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award in 2017.

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What others say:

With singular, controlled balance Brabcová had delivered one of the most unrelenting character portraits the critic had ever read. The narrator, Alzběta, who goes by Běta, is a destitute writer in modern-day Prague. In very short chapters she looks at her life and the world, confronting memory, poverty, imagination, entropy, exhaustion, substance abuse, loneliness, and artistry, the entire range of physical, emotional, quasi-spiritual experiences. It’s as if she’s found a way to leave her body, at age 54, and see her existence from all sides, with fearsome insight. Several times, she uses a tree as the key symbol of herself, sometimes walking, sometimes bloody and damaged.

— Matthew Jakubowski, Textshop Experiments

Composed like a twenty-first century flashback to Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman,” Zuzana Brabcová’s excellent, final novel Aviaries is a surrealist collage of memories, anxieties, and fantasies.

— Jeff Alford, Rain Taxi

Aviaries is an unsettling, provocative novel that gets richer with each successive reading—and it demands and inspires multiple readings. Tereza Novická’s translation sparkles, moving fluidly across Brabcová’s intricate assemblage, and the novel’s haunting refrain seems perfect, a mantra for our age: “Something is happening. Something’s in the air. Something isn’t right.”

— Seth Rogoff, Rain Taxi

... a lesson in literary phantasmagoria – not for the faint of heart.

— Hiba Tahir, The Arkansas International

Aviaries is anchored in history, politics, satire, and humor. Stalin, Mozart, and even Proust lend height and sound to
its metaphors. In turn, the news of the day, of every day
in every place, lend the dose of reality against which all
minds must end their race to feel. But what is most important about this, the last of Brabcová’s gifts, what makes it deserving of a place in the most minimalist of bookshelves, is its honest, overwhelming beauty, its celebration of language, imagery,
and humanity, and its tribute to all of life, observed.

— Anjanette Delgado, New York Journal of Books

With its sharp sense of the absurd but also grounded in the all too-real contemporary world, Brabcová effectively presents a dark-hued picture of the present.

— M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

The brilliance is in the prose that captures both the everyday working of Beta's life but also the dream or nightmare way she envisions the world around her as surreal and hyper-real over time maybe even both at the same time.

Winstondad's

A deeply moving work of social exclusion, it is akin to William Kennedy’s Ironweed on magic mushrooms, a melancholic work where we wonder if there is to be any redemption for the narrator as she slips further and further into decline.

Messenger's Booker

A sophisticated testimony about social exclusion that oscillates between diary, dream entries, and phantasmagorical prose.

Literární noviny

Aviaries has a multifarious form, with the author alternating between short accounts of real events and imaginative stories. There is here a precision of expression pregnant with meaning, in which the core of matters emerge: subtlety and sensibility. Exactly the type of quality virtually taboo today.

MF Dnes

[Aviaries] puts us in a public sphere that has no use for those who are incompatible with the exigencies of the day, with the culture of youth, success, physical prowess. Brabcová is a superb stylist, and with this short book she has stepped beyond the wall of literary art that seldom allows for this type of social commentary and analysis.

Respekt

   

ISBN 9788086264516
132 pp.
14 x 20 cm
softcover with flaps
1 b/w illustration
fiction : novel
RRP: $16 • £11

cover by Dan Mayer

release dates:
UK: February 18, 2019
US: April 15, 2019

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