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Book details:
Marketa Lazarova

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Štyrský cover
Toyen cover

also by the author:
Summer of Caprice

  marketa lazarová

by Vladislav Vančura

translated from the Czech by Carleton Bulkin

frontispiece by František Drtikol

Medieval Bohemia, the petty nobility nothing more than highwaymen, literally robber barons, and the king has to dispatch troops to restore order. Marketa Lazarová was promised to God at birth, destined to live her life in a convent, but she is abducted by one of the neighboring Kozlík clan and discovers her sensual self. Told in shifting perspectives, mixing the archaic with the modern, the elevated with the vulgar, Vančura's tale is a compressed epic, less historical novel (the history of his ancestors) than paean to honor, courage, life, carnality, and above all a love that undermines conventional notions of the profane as it shifts to a sacred outside the sanctions of religious dogma. In so doing, he shows the nexus between Crown and Church to subjugate those who prefer to follow their own natures over following imposed laws and precepts. Adopting a cinematic approach to draw the reader into the action, as if events were happening right before one's eyes, Vančura incorporates elements of his Poetist affinities from a decade earlier to create a work that deserves its place among the classics of interwar modernism. Marketa Lazarová was awarded Czechoslovakia's State Prize for Literature upon its publication in 1931 yet has been largely known by František Vláčil's 1967 film adaptation, generally considered one of the greatest achievements of Czech cinema, and unavailable in English until now.


Charmingly bound in maroon and gold, this new translation makes a valuable contribution to Slavic studies and world literature.

— C.M. Coppage Slavic & East European Journal

As Vančura is seldom rendered in English, we are fortunate to have so lively a work now available.

— Jeff Bursey, Rain Taxi

The story is fantastic: exposing the ruthlessness of medieval Bohemia and taking us down into the mud and filth with the brigands. The snow falls and blood is shed, morality is questioned and God is called upon as a sadist.


[T]his is a remarkable and unusual book, particularly since archaic text is relieved with beautiful writing and contemporary asides. […] Marketa Lazarová is a little treasure of a book for its historical value, the lusty tale it tells, and the literary worth of Vladislav Vančura’s writing.

— Valerie Wieland, NewPages

[Vančura] draws regular distinctions between the ‘Herculean times’ of yore and modern society, gently mocking the refined reader’s probable unease over certain elements of the story and chiding you for not fighting and loving as ferociously as men and women had once done.

Books, Yo

Strange, violent, funny, and ultimately devastating, this Marketa Lazarova is a medieval tale of family loyalty, kidnapping, and love. Nothing I can do here would be a substitute for Vančura’s vivid, surreal voice—a voice that guides the story cynically, ironically, but also energetically, buoyantly. One of the best things I read all year.


In a certain sense the novel is a milestone in Vančura's evolution. Just as scattered rays converge in a single golden strand in the lens of a magnifying glass, in Marketa Lazarová Vančura's creative endeavors converge in a single, undivided stream.

— Milan Kundera

Vančura keeps both the fairly complicated action going but also the strange love affairs between Mikolas and Markéta and between Kristian and Alexandra. Using the narrator to give his clear and not always objective views on what is going on and at times jumping ahead or back in time, we get a fascinating modernist take on a medieval romance (in both senses of the word).

The Modern Novel


ISBN 9788086264431
183 pp., 13.5 x 19 cm
stamped hardcover with ribbon bookmark
2-color frontispiece
fiction : novel

cover by Dan Mayer

release dates:
UK: May 2016
US: July 2016

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