About Emil Hakl
„The Hrabal of this time“ called a passionate reader of modern Czech literature the thirty-six-year-old Emil Hakl. The course of live of this author, who appeared at the Czech literature scene for the first time a few years ago and immediately impressed everybody, reminds of a bit of a rollercoaster.
Hanka Hosnedlová, Českobudějovické Listy, Czech Republic
„Hakl is a real literary talent. He needs little to create an atmosphere and create characters. Hakl means something in Czech literature.“
Dalibor Malina, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Czech Republic
The father-son dialogue, beautifully caught by Marek Tomin's dancing translation, is a delight. Hakl trusts his readers to complete thee motional jigsaw, and spell out the heartbreak behind the hedonism. Lust and drink aside, history frames that heartbreak: the atrocities of wartime Croatia, where Benes senior grew up; the ruin of a „bourgeois“ family after the Communist coup; the edgy aftermath of the Soviet invasion in 1968, when „everyone was trying to play both sides“.
Boyd Tonkin, review of „Of Kids & Parents“ The Independent, United Kingdom
(1958, Czech Republic)
Emil Hakl started in the eighties to write poetry and dramatize literary texts, which he staged for amateur companies. He was one of the founding fathers of the free literary association The Modern Illiterate (founded in 1988). The emphasis was on regular readings in clubs in and outside Prague. Hakl himself said that from an acoustic and social point of view the performance in the National Technical Museum in Prague was the most interesting when altogether three people were in the audience.
Since 1988 Hakl also writes works of prose, which were published in various magazines. The first two officially published titles by Hakl were volumes of verse and some of his poems were included in Anthologie de la poésie tchéque contemporaine 1945-2000 (Gallimard, Paris, 2002). His next book in 2001 was a volume of short stories, followed by two novels and another volume of short stories. His novel O rodičích a dětech (Of Kids & Parents) was awarded with the prestigious Magnesia Litera Prize for prose in the year 2002.
Konec světa (The End of the World), 2001, short stories
Ten short stories, ten precise descriptions of ten situations, which take place either right in the magic mid-nineties or look back through the dirty glass of today at the magic eighties. What these stories have in common is the concise, non-pathetic style and the clean-cut sense of the point of the story. Though the themes of the writer are close to our present live, there is something in the texts that keeps reminding the underground literature. Perhaps it is because the most of the heroes are outsiders. Barmaids, drug addicts, the homeless, foreign workers from the Ukraine and other characters are people who try amidst the ever bubbling eruptions of our time to maintain (most of the time without success) an inner independence, to find a space where their need for freedom and positive relations can survive. Hakl’s short stories belong to the best Czech prose of the last few years.
Intimní schránka Sabriny Black (Sabrina Black's Intimate Box ) 2002, novel
After his debut in 2001 Hakl now publishes his first novel. Despite the title it is not merely about exchanging bodily fluids, but also about ‘the transformation of the domestic reality’ that took place in the last few years. The stormily narrated story of the main hero is drafted like a mosaic of short, interconnected unforgettable stories about idle friendship and even more idle love, and about searching at least a bit of independent existence amidst a time that rapidly loses its content as well as its outlines. The main part of the book takes place in the Prague quarter Letná, where the main hero, hoping finally to escape from the grinding room of the tiring rituals of an employee, starts his own business. The typical narrative style, mixing black humour with pure desperation, mockery with resignation, adds a flowing rhythm to the book, which is so characteristic for the writer. One can only reads this novel about life and death and even about life after death and death after life in one and the same breath
O rodičích a dětech (Of Kids & Parents) 2002, novel
Having a stroll is a specific European event. People are walking all over the world, but at our small dusty continent time has polished the art of strolling to a kind of perfection. In the European view is having a stroll an act of magic, connecting a sports achievement with prayer, the atmosphere of silence with the roar of long extinct animals and the exchange of reproaches with telling jokes. This book is about such a stroll. Emil Hakl portrays the meeting between a son and his father. He records their conversation that takes place during one afternoon and evening.
Rights sold to:
- Poland: Fundajca Pogranizce
- United States: Twisted Spoon Press
- Spain: Editorial Melusina
- The Netherlands: Voetnoot Publishers
O létajících objektech (On Flying Objects) 2004, short stories
„In the end there only remains to provide vivisection on oneself. One has to do it however impartially, that means with a certain rate of cynicism. Because when you do it with satisfaction, or even with joy, then you will become either a lunatic or a snob“, says the narrator of the short story with the title Close Encounter in Emil Hakl’s new book. The writer returns with this book to the genre of short stories, this time enriched with new narrative elements. At the same time however he keeps loyal to his style of self-mockery, which manages to make the reader smile as well as to chill his spine at the same moment. After all, how long are we living this new life now? How can we return to the crossroads where something still can be spared? Do we only live by words? And how do you feel in this life?
The twelfth story is a photo-story by the famous photographer Miro Švolík.
Rights sold to:
- United Kingdom: Comma Press
Let čarodějnice (Flight of the Witch) 2008, novel
A grand novel about the trials and tribulations of a middle-aged man who in a flush of anger stabs a guard in a shopping mall, who against his will makes career at a glossy magazine, who makes trips on his bike to a friend to eat hallucinating mushrooms, who likes to watch movies, who has to go to Lisbon on behalf of his work, wanders of into the country, meets a Hungarian girl with whom he has an affair, and who in the end returns to Prague. This novel, written in an outstanding way, is a search for the meaning of life and Hakl has succeeded to give an original picture of our modern time. Due to this novel Hakl got wide appraisal from his fellow writers and is considered to be one of the most underestimated Czech contemporary authors.
- Rozpojená slova (Disconnected Words) 1991, poetry
- Zkušební trylky z Marsu (Experimental Quavers From Mars) 2000, poetry
- Konec světa (The End of the World) 2001, short stories
- Intimní schránka Sabriny Black (Sabrina Black's Intimate Box ) 2002, novel
- O rodičích a dětech (On Parents And Children) 2002, novel
- O létajících objektech (On Flying Objects) 2004, short stories
- Let čarodějnice (Flight of the Witch) 2008, novel
O rodičích a dětech (Of Kids & Parents)
The title On parents and children describes the whole book quite well. Nothing better than a conversation between a seventy-two year old father and his forty-two year old son. About ninety percent of the book consists of this dialogue between the father and the son, and although such an obvious lack of action may seem hopelessly boring, it is, in fact, most entertaining to read about the anecdotes they both have to share with each other. The whole conversation takes place during a stroll through Prague and sitting in cafes, but contrary to expectations, it doesn’t give a good image of the city at all. Instead of following the ‘tourist’ route passing monuments and churches, the main characters walk through weary, derelict neighbourhoods and old, dusty streets.
The time that passes in the whole book can’t be more than a few hours; the book takes place on the late afternoon, evening, and night of a warm day in August. Although it would seem that the book would be way too short this way, the conversation makes up for that by ‘filling it up.’ The interesting thing is that instead of describing the characters conventionally, Hakl does so through the dialogue, and you get to know the characters by the things they say, rather than by the subjective eyes of the storyteller.
The conversation touches a myriad of topics, from women to memories of a lost childhood, memories from the father when he was young and lived in Croatia, from the Russian submarine Kursk to their favourite airplanes. Both speakers talk in Prague slang, which gives the conversation an even higher degree of realism and adds a certain charm to it. The layout of the whole dialogue is done in a very realistic fashion, with for example the subtle changes of topics, which happens in real conversations as well.
Occasionally the conversation triggers the memory of the son and he plunges into flashbacks. It is a interesting to see in what manner the son reflects on the subjects that he and his father just have discussed. These flashbacks play an important role throughout the whole book and gives depth to the story. It is for instance funny to watch the son apologize to his father for something he had broken when he was a child, forty years earlier.
The book is a pleasure to read, primarily also because of its humour, in many places it is very funny.. The down-to-earth feeling of the novel and its intimate content puts it close to the reader, because the talk between the father and the son is one actually everyone should have once it is life with his parent of his child. With this novel, in which he has succeeded to depict in a unique way a portrait of two generations, Hakl has proven his quality as a writer.