The Rainstick

Jiří Hájíček

Jiří Hájíček: The Rainstick

Original title: Dešťová hůl


Genre: novel


Publisher:

Host, 2016


ISBN: 978-80-7491-773-8


Pages: 280


Awards:

Book of the Year 2016 Lidové noviny poll, Czech Book Prize 2017


Rights sold to:

Poland (Książkowe Klimaty), Bulgaria (Izida), Macedonia (Antolog)

Summary


Jiří Hájíček follows his literary investigation of the Czech village of the past with a novel set in the present. Zbyněk, a land administrator, meets a former love he hasn’t seen for many years, in order to help her with an apparently simple property-related problem. Having returned to the country village in which he was born and grew up, Zbyněk is gradually apprised of the unclear circumstances of a land dispute; at the same time he becomes embroiled in personal and marital crisis. He struggles with insomnia, loses his way in the countryside and cadastral maps, while a crazy 18th-century rustic aviator hovers above him like an apparition. A turning point is reached when Zbyněk goes into battle with his face covered in war paint so as “not to wake up as someone else one day”. 


Reviews

"Jiří Hájíček has long been a meticulous observer of life in the Czech village. […] He takes great care to render in detail the psychology of his characters, seemingly ordinary men and women within whom a light continues to burn. Add to this his lyrical depictions of South Bohemian landscapes and his wonderfully readable language and what you get is some great autumn reading."   Jonáš Zbořil, Český rozhlas, Radio Wave

"Jiří Hájíček draws the novel The Rainstick to an outcome that will make a long-lasting impression on the reader. Hájíček is an exceptional teller of ordinary tales from the provinces. […] Hájíček is able to weave his tale together in such masterful ordinariness. He has produced another great novel. No kidding."  Ivan Hartman, Hospodářské noviny

"Hájíček’s new book comes as no surprise insofar as the author neither deviates from his familiar poetics nor presents us with settings and characters that differ greatly than those he has given us hitherto. Again, he proves himself to be an outstanding storyteller and meticulous chronicler who treats his material conscientiously and with modest aims. He handles his characters (particularly the female ones) with a touching tenderness, like a perceptive psychologist. The Rainstick is our best proof so far that Hájíček is an expert on the soul of the provinces, and so too the human soul."  Markéta Kittlová, iliteratura

"Hájíček’s descriptions of life in the country and the city and his depictions of human relationships are sober and free of pathos, and they demonstrate an exquisite sense of detail. He avoids idealization and any kind of cliché. Everything is natural and free of literary mannerism and experimentation with form and content. 

His language, too, is plain and clear, although when the theme demands, it can be poetic and lyrical. […]

The Rainstick is a novel about searching and a call for cleansing by rain. American Indians summoned the live-giving moisture using the musical instrument that gives the novel its title – a hollow stick inside which dry seeds rattled together. The protagonist washes the muck of futility from himself by returning to his past and embarking on a selfless struggle in pursuit of the right thing." Petra Smítalová, Instinkt

"Hájíček isn’t one of those writers who seeks to wring out of slow-building conflict a stunning conclusion which sees the police drag shysters away in handcuffs or the naïve hero wading in pools of his own blood. His impulses are different: they concern a time and a generation of people that have lost the authenticity of their own being – players, figures and listeners who lack the ability of self-realization in essential matters, replacing it with the pursuit of superficial brilliance, Mammon and the aimless wasting of their limited time on earth. […]    
In describing Jiří Hájíček as a South Bohemian novelist, it was not my intention to suggest that he is a chronicler of or spokesman for a territorially limited area alone. Indeed, it is the placing of author and his story in a location that allows them to speak so persuasively to readers beyond its borders. This region can today be as proud of Hájíček as it was proud of Adalbert Stifter and Karel Klostermann in their time." Petr Hanuška, Olomoucký deník

"The first two novels garnered success with readers and critics alike, and it was hoped that the new one would emulate if not exceed this. The Rainstick is one of the strongest original works of fiction to appear this year. Perhaps in other years, too. […]  Hájíček is a skilful, sophisticated storyteller. The plot proceeds in slow yet full and sensitive moves, in masculine and feminine directions. Patterns of relationship dissolve; everyone is basically alone. Gradually the reader is enveloped in a fog of melancholy. Just as this becomes almost too much to bear, a turning point is reached – the author invests the plot with dynamic elements that recall action-packed detective fiction, and the story gets its second wind. As it concludes, it addresses issues of justice and hope. Is it a crime thriller? A melodrama? A lyrical landscape? Is it Neorealism or Naturalism, with a touch of Romanticism?  

What cannot be disputed is that it is outstanding writing on an inexhaustible, eternal theme. Victims and killers. Crime and punishment. And, where the ideological connotation is negative, blood and soil. Hájíček achieves the maximum effect with minimal resources. In his writer’s humility, the story comes to him almost unbidden, in urgent, certain form. Like rain, whose pitter-patter we are reminded of in the book’s title." Radim Kopáč, MF Dnes

"Jiří Hájíček’s longer fiction is typified by the gradual uncovering of deep-lying storylines. Readers find themselves unwittingly delving ever deeper into the plot as the characters of the protagonists are revealed – and these characters are rarely black and white. This is an essential element of Hájíček’s novels. While they are characterized by a certain simplicity and general communicability, the basic world-view implicit to them is far more complex and multi-layered than views presented by many better-known Czech authors. In this sense, Hájíček is a singular phenomenon in Czech fiction: quite simply, he succeeds in writing an interesting and engaging story conceptually anchored in the Czech literary tradition (of the realistic novel and the provincial novel) while maintaining awareness of the rural setting as a sui generis world governed by rules now forgotten by city-dwellers."  Martin Vaněk, Host

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