To the Seaside

Petra Soukupová

Petra Soukupová: To the Seaside

Original title: K moři


Genre: novella


Publisher:

Host, 2007


ISBN: 978-80-7294-234-3


Pages: 204


Awards:

Jiří Orten Prize, 2008; shortlisted for Magnesia Litera Prize Debut of the Year 2008 and for Josef Škvorecký Prize 2008


Foreign editions:

Slovenian (Sanje, 2012), Bulgarian (ALJA, 2015), Croatian (Meandar, 2015), Bosnian (Brčko, 2015)


Rights sold to:

Poland (Afera), Serbia (Kornet)

Summary


The first fruit by Petra Soukupová goes well beyond the bounds of contemporary Czech literature. At the centre of the narrative are the life stories of a number of characters: people like you and me who are formally interconnected within the family but are very distant from one another in human terms. Their stories cross fully and authentically but once: on a more or less accidental holiday trip to the seaside.
By its form and motif this work of prose is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf and her classic novel To the Lighthouse. But this is no exercise in imitation: in the authorial utterance we can find (considering her age) a surprisingly intimate understanding of the breakdown of interpersonal relations and the impossibility of having rewarding communication, even within the immediate family. - Pavel Janoušek


Reviews

"A natural dexterity in the telling, together with the 'plain' and pure presentation of key themes and the tragic fault lines of the story place this work of prose in Czech literature’s highest category."  Statement of the panel of judges on the conferring of the Jiří Orten Prize

In spite of the fact that the novel To the Seaside occasionally irritates, it succeeds – with a healthy unpleasantness – in evoking in the reader an intense feeling of time passing and the speed and transience of our lives. In the past few years there have been few such prose debuts in this country."  
Josef Chuchma, MF Dnes

"After a few sentences Petra Soukupová had me hooked, and the addiction continued. All it took was a few sentences to make everything different. All the preconceptions I had of it, fell away in a moment. I’ve never read another book like it, yet Petra Soukupová works this unique effect by means of quite a simple trick: her prose is written in clearly intelligible sentences structured in clauses of simple structure. She gets straight to the point. She writes not a word too many. She doesn’t digress from her theme. Everything is described word for word, with all the missing connections filled in. She leaves no space whatever for surmises and speculation – there is nothing between the lines but the whiteness of the paper. And in my opinion, best of all is that she brings all her heroes (not just the protagonists, also the many bit-part players) into the story with consistent personal histories, and these histories she pursues after the characters have been ushered off-stage. (In inserted chapters she tells the stories of their lives from the moment they leave the story until their deaths.)  
All this is fascinating, not least in the context of the storyline – the absolutely commonplace tale of a family in disintegration."  
Martin Hůla, Reflex

"By keenness of observation and stylistic bravura, Petra Soukupová has succeeded in rendering a coherent sequence of banal stories as if the work were a fast-flowing drama. Throughout the text she makes skilful and discreet use of stylistic figures reminiscent of the film cut, when, as if incidentally, a scene in the present time is followed immediately by a scene from the future, in which a sentence relates the course of events from this point. Yet this is no self-referential game: thanks to this, our understanding of the storyline in present time differs from those of the actors. 
The theme of the novella To the Seaside may seem banal. But the work’s young author tells her stories of everyday dramas in a manner that is anything but mundane, and she demonstrates great talent as a stylist."  
Vladimír Karfík, Respekt

"Her text has been rid of any superfluous ingredients. It concentrates solely on rendering the intimate relations and conditions of its protagonists. It ignores entirely the context of period; let us admit that to read today a work of contemporary Czech prose whose story is not run through with all great historical events since the end of the Second World War, ideally along the axis of holocaust – normalization – privatization, is a refreshing experience in and of itself.  
In her description of the progression towards emptiness that overshadows the lives of the characters, the author makes do with a succession of precise observations from everyday life, which she sketches in sharp, precise strokes. It is not the subject matter that serves most to captivate the reader, but the way in which the author relates it – and this is impressive indeed. Petra Soukupová is a keen observer with a fine sense for detail."  
Jana Matějková, Tvar

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