[ excerpt ]
Read about Jan Švankmajer here
Read an interview with the translator here
also by the author:
Selected Writing & Art
by Eva Švankmajerová
translated from the Czech by Gwendolyn Albert
cover and frontispiece by the author
collages by Jan Švankmajer
afterword by Vratislav Effenberger
The novel Baradla Cave has lost none of the force of its social critique and trenchant humor since it originally
appeared in samizdat in the 1980s and officially published in 1995 by Edice Analogon. A living organism, Baradla is
both place (Prague) and person (a woman), an exploration of maternity and femininity as well as a satirical look at
the overweening mother-state and consumer society. The language collage comprising pseudo-scientific jargon, the diction of
interwar magazines for women and girls, the demotic, and metaphoric stream is complemented by Jan Švankmajer's erotic
collages, as scenes of episodic sexual violence alternate with humorous reflections on various ingrained habits and
customs. With a seemingly boundless sense of the absurd, Švankmajerová fingers here practically everything having
to do with modern existence: substance abuse, violent sex crimes, rampant consumerism, pervasive corruption, and dysfunctional family relationships.
It is like looking at a surrealistic painting. You might say What is going on? but when you look closer
there is a certain sense of something even if it is not entirely clear what that something is. Humour and the unreal are part but
only part of it, while much of it is letting us see the world in a completely different way from the way we normally do and that i
s what Švankmajerová brilliantly does in this novel. The only surprise is that it is not better known.
— The Modern Novel
How long must English-language readers wait for someone to translate her.
— Penelope Rosemont (editor
of Surrealist Women)
Švankmajerová's mode of literary expression
is likewise heavily visual in character and, like
her paintings, the writing reflects a delicate
balance of reality and irony, humor and terror. [...] The
novel is an astute and satirical – however troubling
– account of late 20th-century society.
Švankmajerová's style of surrealism can be daunting at first. The stream-of-consciousness thoughts of one character often wind and wend their way into
the mind of another. Whether that mind belongs to a man, a woman, or a cave
is sometimes for the reader to decide. But her use of surrealism to convey
non-life under totalitarianism pre-dates the same technique visible in
Victor Pelevin's novel The Clay Machine Gun. Both works describe a
crumbling society speeding towards America's consumer lifestyle, with large
Japanese corporations in the driving seat.
— Blue Ear
158 pp., 14 x 20 cm
softcover with flaps
5 color illustrations
fiction : surrealism
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