Archive for the ‘Czech Literature’ Category

After reading one Kateřina Tučková, I decided to read another 😊 It was ‘The Last Goddess‘.

Dora is researching on her family’s past. At the same time she is also researching on female healers from her hometown, who were traditionally persecuted as witches in previous centuries, but who were called ‘goddesses’ in her hometown. These two areas of research intertwine, of course – what is the fun otherwise – because we discover that Dora’s aunt who brought her up, her mother who died when she was young, her grandmother and her female ancestors all formed a long line of ‘goddesses’, who were healers, who were persecuted. As Dora delves more into her family history, she discovers many secrets, some surprising and some unpleasant, and from the pages of her family’s history there arises a mysterious character who seems to have played a major part in persecuting her family members. The identity of this person and the secrets that are revealed and the way Dora’s family story intertwines with her country’s history forms the rest of the book.

The Last Goddess‘ is a very different book compared to ‘Gerta‘ because it delves into female healers, witchcraft, witch trials. But it has one common thing with ‘Gerta’. It brings to light a little known facet of Czech history. I was surprised that much of the book was based on facts, and the author has done her research well. That makes the book even more fascinating. The women characters in the book are all fascinating, even one of the characters who practises dark magic. The ending of the story was surprising and heartbreaking – I didn’t see that coming.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Last Goddess‘. Kateřina Tučková has written one more novel in Czech. I hope it gets translated into English soon. I can’t wait to read it.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.

“…the people of Kopanice held on to the notion that they were exceptional because they lived in an exceptional setting. Dora would have liked to begin here in the writing of her dissertation. But of course, it was nonsense to open an academic work with an essay on a mountainous landscape whose slopes were covered with forests of Carpathian beech and oak, their trunks too broad to put one’s arms around, where the hillsides were dotted with narrow tilled fields and squat little cottages and meadows that, in summer, were aglitter with rare orchids and anemones. An academic work cannot begin with a description of a fresh summer day in the mountains that gives way in a moment to winds and storms that swathe the ridges in dark, impenetrable clouds, nor with one of a hard winter when the hills are whipped with snowy gusts more reminiscent of Siberia than southern Moravia. The pages of such a work cannot describe the huge round moon and the shreds of night sky between the tips of the serried hills, nor can it observe that on a cloudless night, the hillside paths are seen almost as clearly as in daytime; that when at such a moment you stand on the crest of a hill at the threshold of your cottage, you might believe yourself in heaven, the whole world open beneath your feet; and that the lights of cottages scattered across the hillside opposite wink at you, as do those of Hrozenkov from a hollow between hills, like a babe in its cradle. Everyone knows of everyone else, regardless of the distance between them. They are alone, yet together. That would have been a proper beginning for her dissertation, showing how magical Kopanice in the White Carpathians was and that only in such a place could something as special as the goddesses originate and develop. In an academic work bound by strict rules in which aesthetics counted for naught, there was no place for it, however.”

Have you read ‘The Last Goddess‘? What do you think about it?

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I discovered ‘Gerta‘ by Kateřina Tučková recently and I just finished reading it.

It is the eve of the Second World War. Germany invades Czechoslovakia. Germans take over the Czechoslovakian government and welcome the invaders. Gerta lives with her family in the city of Brno. Gerta’s situation is complicated. Her dad is German and her mom is Czech. She speaks both languages fluently and is at home with both cultures. Her dad tries to push German language and culture at home, but Gerta leans more towards her mom and towards her Czech side. Things go bad for the Czech people during the Nazi occupation, before they get better, when the Russian army walks into Czechoslovakia and liberates it from Germany. But better is just an illusion. For Gerta and her family, they are regarded as German by the native Czechs. As soon as the war gets over, Gerta and others like her – German women who live in Brno, or women with both German and Czech parents – are expelled from the city and are taken on a death march. What happens to Gerta and others like her forms the rest of the story.

The book throws light on a little known episode in Czech history of the 20th century and focuses on innocent people who suffered for years because of the vagaries of history. The story is mostly sad and haunting and heartbreaking. But there are also many beautiful moments in it. The kindness of strangers because of which the world survives and thrives, is present throughout the story. We see most of the story unfold through Gerta’s eyes, but in the second part of the book, Gerta’s daughter occasionally makes an appearance and tells the story from her perspective. Kateřina Tučková’s prose is spare and moves the story gently like a river. When I reached the end of the book, I cried.

I loved ‘Gerta‘, though it was mostly heartbreaking to read. I hope to read more Kateřina Tučková books. I’ve heard that ‘Gerta’ has been adapted into a play in Czech, and it has received many accolades and has been admired by fans. I hope I can watch it one day.

Have you read ‘Gerta’? What do you think about it?

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