Jáchym Topol, born in Prague, Czech Republic, in 1962. Studied Ethnography and Folklore at Charles University, Prague. Journalist and Teacher at the Prague Literary Academy. Author of poetry, prose essays, articles and novels of which the last three, Sister, Angel Station and Night Work, have been translated into many languages and have earned him numerous literary awards.
Writer-in-Residence (1 September 2004 – 31 January 2005)
HEROES AND COLLABORATORS DURING THE SOVIETISATION OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA
While at NIAS from September 2004 to January 2005, I was able to write two books, a play and several articles. The short story Supermarket sovětských hrdinů [Super market of Soviet heroes] has already appeared as the foreword to a book by the Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk. It will be published again separately as a book in the autumn of 2005. It tells of a walking expedition through Slovakia and Galicia in Poland and is full of references to the Second World War that left so many visible traces of the bloody battle of Dukla in the Carpathian mountains. The abandoned bunkers and remains of the Atlantic Wall scattered in the dunes of Wassenaar provided me with an appropriate haven to do the necessary thinking!
The second, longer book, which will appear in Prague in September 2005, is the novel Kloktat Dehet [Gargling with carbolic (soap)]. The German translation will be published by Suhrkamp. This novel tells the story of a young boy in a Czech orphanage who gets caught up in the fighting and chaos that breaks out when five Warsaw Pact countries invade Czechoslovakia.
The Dutch countryside, which I tried to commune with during my stay, also provided me with material for a number of articles for Czech newspapers and magazines. In addition, I read from my novel Noční práce [Night work] in Utrecht, Brussels and at a literary festival in Amsterdam.
While at NIAS I also wrote the play Vzhůru do Bugulmy! [On to Bulgama!], which will be staged in the autumn of 2005 in Dusselforf and Prague. The piece is set in the not too distant future and deals with the emergence of a new subspecies – homo europeus. It is quite shocking and dark but funny!
I took a great deal of material with me to NIAS to produce the above works and I was pleasantly surprised that I was not only able to write everything while at NIAS but I was also able to sell my work.
My final view of NIAS can only be described as euphoric! At NIAS, you can truly make excellent use of your time. The only thing that impedes your work is the fact that there are so many highly intelligent and interesting people with an incredible amount of knowledge in all sorts of fields concentrated in such a small area. You just go to fetch a coffee and before you know it, you end up talking to someone for hours.
I would also like to note that for a writer who hates to sit still, the Batavus bike was a welcome and trusty companion. The only problem now I have to solve now is how to manage without NIAS.