Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life is a rediscovered gem of 1960s Czech literature in its first English translation. Written between 1954 and 1957 by Josef Jedlička and treating events from the Stalinist era of Czechoslovakia’s postwar Communist regime, Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life flew in the face of the reigning aesthetic of socialist realism. Constructed from lyrical sketches of everyday life in industrial north Bohemia, and set against a backdrop of historical and cultural upheaval, Midway interweaves meditative and speculative reflections with fragmentary accounts of Jedlička’s own life and the lives of people around him—typically rendered as overheard conversations—as they go about the business of “building a new society.” Due to its critical view of socialist society and the mythology that goes with it, Midway remained unpublished until 1966 amid the easing of cultural control, but a complete, uncensored version of this anti-heroic novel did not appear in Czech until 1994.
Participants: Alex Zucker, translator, several awards, incl. English PEN Award for Writing in Translation; Rajendra A. Chitnis, afterword and editorial supervisor, Senior Lecturer in Czech, Slovak and Russian literature at University of Bristol; Owen Hatherley, publicist and author of the bestselling Landscapes of Communism; Jana Nahodilová, Deputy Language Director, University of Bristol.
Josef Jedlička (1927–1990) was a Czech essayist and novelist. Expelled from Charles University in Prague after leaving the Communist Party, he and his family moved to the border town of Litvínov. In 1968, after the Soviet-led intervention and occupation, they emigrated to West Germany, where he worked as a cultural editor for Radio Free Europe. Rich in language, innovative in structure, Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life is his anti-utopian portrait of life in mid–1950s Czechoslovakia.
Modern Czech Classics
Thursday 14th April 19:00 at Waterstones Piccadilly
£5 tickets (redeemable against purchase of the book on the night) are available in store, by telephone 020 7851 2400 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org