[ excerpt ]
also by the author:
On Flying Objects
Decapolis: Tales from Ten Cities
|of kids & parents
by Emil Hakl
translated from the Czech by Marek Tomin
In Europe, taking a walk is a cultural phenomenon having an almost mystical import. It connects
physical activity with meditation, inner silence with the outer tumult of the world. Taking its cue
both from Joyce's Ulysses and Hrabal's freely associating stream of anecdote, Of Kids & Parents is about a father and son taking
a walk through Prague, over the course of which, and in the pubs and bars they stop into, their
personal lives are revealed as entwined with the past sixty years of upheaval in their corner of Europe. One's "small
history" is shown to be inseparable from the large history played out on the world's stage: families are uprooted,
relationships fail, jobs are gained or lost, and still life goes on. Hakl's genius is his ability to mesh the two into a seamless flow of dialogue.
The father tells his son: "Nothing's been new in this world for more than two billion years, it's all
just variations on the same theme of carbon, hydrogen, helium, and nitrogen." Which raises the question: though
Prague has witnessed various forms of government, wars, putsches, and revolutions come and go over the course of a
century, what really has changed? On the personal level, the same mistakes are repeated over and over, a
never-ending freak show.
Currently being translated into most European languages, the novel was awarded a Magnesia Litera Book of the Year prize in 2003 and
has been made into a feature film.
Shortlisted for the 2009
Voted one of the 7 best books of 2008
by RALPH magazine
What others say:
Of Kids & Parents contains many typical Czech moments of humor, bickering, sarcasm,
irony, and prental chides ... It is a delighlful read in both Czech and English. Tomin's transltion flows
well, capturing the Czech linguistic nuances and colloquialisms. The English translation was published by the
Twisted Spoon Press ... one of the many remarkable books produced by the press.
— Slavic and East European Journal
It’s so rich, intense, and full of life. But also highly intelligent and lucid. It says a lot about being human and getting older. About history and how it
repeats itself again and again. And about the humans who think they are the crown of creation while they are not. And I shouldn’t forget to mention that, at times, it’s a very funny book.
— Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat
It is this vision of Prague that Hakl also wants to convey, where things don't manage to be quite so serious and
where you can always count on ambiguity.
— The Complete Review
Anyone who has ever crawled from pub to pub in Prague — or anyone who wants to — should read
this utterly beguiling novel of uproarious surfaces and melancholy depths. ... The father-son dialogue, beautifully
caught by Marek Tomin's dancing translation, is a delight.
— Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
... vividly translated by Marek Tomin ... the book reveals the high Czech literary
art of rambling on about both grave and trivial topics ... Hakl's absorbing narrative spun out of dialogue
and the quality of his prose style amply show that his novel is no ordinary fiction.
— John Taylor, The Antioch Review
Skittishly insouciant, direly funny, this is a small, Waiting for Godot-ish gem.
— Ray Olson, Booklist
It becomes clear that family life has continued despite war aand occupation, communism and now under capitalism, and the characters
are thoroughly dispossessed of belief in any grand political system. Along with this political ambivalence, a sense of helplessness characterises their whole
outlook. Their own relationship is shot through with an antagonism that they are scarcely aware of, much less able to control.
— Alasdair Gillon, The Edinburgh Review
Of Kids and Parents is very funny from the outset but with a creeping prickle of nihilism that keeps in well with the lazy, sometimes awkward,
early evening hedonism. It's sneakily bleak on the subject of love and proves modern history to be bleaker still, but the dialogue between the know-it-all Dad and his narky son should keep your
mood very much afloat.
The father is off in his own world and only intermittently can the son truly engage in an exchange, but mostly it's playing along with his
father's tangents and memories. But what is so interesting about his memories is that they provide a framework for the reader as if she were walking through the
history of Prague and Eastern Europe. From Communism to Nazi's to the warring Yugoslavia, we are given a quick tour of fighting aircrafts and the destruction
of cities and people.
Of all the unlikely venues for a story, this has got to be it: a tantalizing,
suck-you-in, lay-you-out, haunt-your-soul moment-by-moment of a father and son walking the streets of the
city ... And there they are, like all of us, stuck with those who bore us, unable to escape those who bear us.
Cioran once said that our lives are nothing but stories, and that storytelling is the grace that comes from
having lived (or even imagined) our lives. Out of the streets of Prague Honza and Ivan have been conjoined in
heart and in soul by a writer who can transform all into gold, using a template as rich and as good as it gets.
— The Review of Arts, Literature,
Philosophy and the Humanities
a very enjoyable melancholy read and Tomin's translation keeps alight Hakl's
fiery naturalism in both dialogue and description.
Hakl delineates a commonality of experience that links everyone on earth in the sense that we are
kids to a certain extent; we all have parents, whether we relate to them or not; we're still kids, even if we're grown,
since, to a point, we're products of the cultural and political environment that surrounds us.
What is the state of the Czech Republic from the perspective of these two sharp if not especially politically oriented citizens? Unsurprisingly,
perhaps, its morality resembles that of the West, while its culture - despite its older roots and recent communist history - looks westward, too, so that in many respects,
while distinctly Slavic, our two friends might well be sauntering about any Continental metropolis.
— The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Hakl has given us a fine, dark novel whose simple premise allows us to explore Prague and the
elusive relationship between two unsatisfied and inseparable men.
— Greg Pierce, New Haven Review
[A] very well conceived novel that's very comfortable. It's easy to slide into the repartee
between the father and son, and to enjoy their interactions as they move from bar to bar.
— Three Percent
To my mind Emil Hakl is one of the more interesting Czech writers today. Even though his reality is
firmly rooted in Czech reality, I think he would also appeal to an international readership as his core themes are those
that would resonate with anyone.
— Jan Čulik, Britske listy
This virile sentimentality is quite exceptional in contemporary art and is ultimately the
real core of Hakl's writing, though at first glance it might seem that this core has been fragmented into anecdotes.
— Jiří Penas, Tyden
We see the progresssion of each character's psyche as the effects of their alcohol consumption
take hold. Inhibitions disappear and their conversation becomes more candid and intimate. Yet at the same time their
age difference becomes more pronounced and hidden barriers surface. Emil Hakl transcribes his stories from life.
— Lidové noviny
Of Kids & Parents displays Hakl's skill in creating a purely personal depiction of
the world around him, stemming the flow of time and capturing great dramas in the miniature of a weary mundanity
replete with every shade of emotion.
154 pp., 140 x 205 mm
softcover with flaps
fiction : novel
UK: April 2008
US: September 2008