A Czech Dreambook

Ludvík Vaculík

A Czech Dreambook

Ludvík Vaculík

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Translated by Gerald Turner
With an Afterword by Jonathan Bolton
574 pages | 25 halftones | 5 x 8 | © 2018
Paper $27.00 ISBN: 9788024638522 Will Publish December 2019 Not for sale in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic
It’s 1979 in Communist Czechoslovakia, ten years into the crushing period known as normalization, and Ludvík Vaculík has writer’s block. It has been nearly a decade since he wrote his powerful novel, The Guinea Pigs, and it was in 1968 that he wrote his anti-regime manifesto, Two Thousand Words, which the Soviet Union used as a pretext for invading Czechoslovakia. On the advice of his friend, the poet and surrealist painter Jiří Kolář, Vaculík begins to keep a diary, “a book about things, people, and events.” This marks the beginning of A Czech Dreambook.

Fifty-four weeks later, what Vaculík turns out to have written is a unique mixture of diary, dream journal, and outright fiction—an inverted roman à clef in which the author, his family, his mistresses, and the real leaders of the Czech underground play major roles. Undisputedly the most debated novel among the Prague dissident community of the 1980s, it is a work that Vaculík himself described as an amalgam of “hard-boiled documentary” and “magic fiction,” while Václav Havel called it “a truly profound and perceptive account. . . . A great novel about modern life and the crisis of contemporary humanity.”

A Czech Dreambook has been hailed as the most important work of Czech literature in the past forty years. And yet it has never before been available in English. Flawlessly translated by Gerald Turner, Vaculík’s masterpiece is a brilliant exercise in style, dry humor, and irony—an important portrait of the lives and longings of the dissidents and post-Communist elites.
Review Quotes
Václav Havel, dissident playwright and the first post-Communist president of Czechoslovakia
“A novel about hope and hopelessness, about ever-present danger, about the strange dreamlike quality of life in a totalitarian system, about the absurdity of present-day ‘civilized’ living, about losing a home and the disintegration of time and human identity, about love, about nature, about courage, about fear, about death.”
Ivan Klima, dissident and acclaimed novelist
“I could write a whole novel about Vaculík, except that he has already written one about himself. The novel is entitled A Czech Dreambook and tells a lot about the things you won’t even want to believe could have really happened.”
Jonathan Bolton, Harvard University professor of Slavic languages and literature, in his book "Worlds of Dissent"
“Whether they liked it or not, ACzech Dreambook supplied many dissidents with their most intense reading experience of the normalization years.”
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