Original title: Vyhnání Gerty Schnirch
Host 2009, 2010
Magnesia Litera 2010 - Readers' award; shortlisted for Jiří Orten Prize, Josef Škvorecký Prize and Magnesia Litera in the Prose category, 2010
Italian (Barbés, 2011, Laura Angeloni), Hungarian (Kalligram, 2012, Csoma Borbála), German (Klak Verlag, 2018, Iris Milde), Slovakian (Tatran, 2019, Eva Melichárková), Polish (Afera, 2019, Julia Różewicz), Macedonian (Kultura, 2019, Donka Rous), English (Amazon Crossing, USA, Veronique Firkusny, 2021), Greek (Alexandria, 2023, Kostas Tsivos)
Rights sold to:
Italy (Keller editore, second edition), Lithuania (Balto), France (Charleston / Leduc), Latvia (Jumava)
About the fate of one woman in a shattered world, the guilt of Czechs and Germans, whether forgiveness and mutual understanding are possible
On the night of 30/31 May 1945 Gerta Schnirch, the mother of a baby daughter, is “displaced” from Brno with the rest of the German community and nothing but a few personal belongings, and pointed in the direction of Vienna. The gruelling march ends in Pohořelice, where many of the expelled die in an epidemic of typhoid and dysentery. Gerta and several other German women save themselves by doing forced labour in southern Moravia, where they remain once the transports have ended. Having reclaimed her Czechoslovak citizenship, Gerta returns to Brno, where she lives through the tempestuous events of the second half of the twentieth century. This uncommonly subtle and powerful book addresses painful questions of guilt, vengeance and forgiveness between Czechs and Germans. We also witness an unusual mother-daughter relationship, which is distorted on the one hand by the limited space Czech Germans are forced to inhabit on the margins of society, on the other by a lack of mutual understanding between the two generations, difficulties in communication and the impossibility of conveying personal experience. The story is given a unique atmosphere by the genius loci of the unrestrainedly developing town of Brno.
"A death march. Germans from Brno are expelled toward Vienna. They arrive to Pohořelice. Over 1,700 dead. Alcohol, violence, dysentery and typhus. Questions of guilt, retaliation and forgiveness between Czechs and Germans. A novel which hasn’t been written in the Czech environment for a long time. Opening a painful wound of Czech history. A story mercilessly exposing Czech post-war actions. All the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been waiting for such a novel for many years. Vyhnání Gerty Schnirch (…) by Kateřina Tučková proves that waiting worthwhile…
(...) it is a great book. (...) Immediately after reading, the book becomes an unforgettable experience. (...) Although she certainly did not plan for it, Kateřina Tučková wrote a novel that should be included in required reading. Especially when we know how history is still being twisted here."
Jan Hübsch, blog Lidovky
"The central story of Gerta Schnirch can be captured in one word, the cliché adjective “strong”. Its strength lies particularly in vivid depiction of frightful experiences immediately after World War II, experiences resembling terrible nightmare. To achieve this, the author does not need cheap effects, explicit and detailed shocking descriptions, etc."
Petr Hrtánek, Iliteratura
"Another Czech author opened the delicate topic of the expulsion of Czech Germans. A strong artistic move, brilliant narration do not hide clear ideological message. Collective guilt is a mistake!
The historical novel by Kateřina Tučková (1980) has quickly become a literary event of the end of this year."
Jakub Vaníček, Deník Referendum
"In her book The Expulsion of Gerta Schnirch (Host), the author describes with a great writing talent and empathy for human suffering Gerta’s life from the moment she stood at her mother’s grave in 1942. (...) We have read of various anabases but few are as dreadful as the one depicted with deep pity by Kateřina Tučková. And so forcefully described as if she were Gerta who experienced all this first hand."
Milena Nyklová, Knižní novinky
"Tučková managed to create an impressive picture of the confrontation of an individual life with historical events that are beyond one’s control and will grind everybody regardless of their wrongdoing, punishment, penance or apology, not mentioning their wishes and desires. (...)
Like in some layers of prosaic texts by Jáchym Topol, Tučková managed to render the issue of collective guilt, as we know it from the famous Jaspers’ treatise, in a much more comprehensive and disturbing way. Unlike Topol, however, she chose incomparably more traditional narrative method, which seems more fitting for such a weighty topic.
To be clear: this impressive story of an expelled German is such a supreme artistic statement that I can definitely call it a literary success."
Erik Gilk, Tvar
"Why do people write literature? Some may see writing as a way of escaping from everyday life to the realm of free imagination (…). And others may write “just” because they want to bear witness to what really happened in our world, although it may seem shocking, unbelievable and incomprehensible for many people. (...)
Comparing her book with the recently published prose Chladná země by Jáchym Topol, representing a similar attempt at a documentary testimony to boundless cruelty and tyranny, we can see that Tučková is not inclined toward postmodern narrative charades. In accord with her intention, she chose a realist form of more or less chronological narration built on her respect to the depicted facts, because she is convinced that these facts are impressive in their own right. (...) unlike many other contemporary Czech journalists and prose writers, she is not under the delusion that history starts in 1945 when bad Czechs banished good Germans.
This is facilitated by her ability to switch between narrative perspectives and realistically reconstruct autonomous thinking of particular people, not only of the central character, but also other characters whose hearts her narration probes. The author shows extraordinary sense of psychology, an ability to maintain a tension between tendencies to typology and singularity, as well as ability to effectively use confrontation of contradictory individual attitudes.
(...) the author is not a relativist for whom one guilt washes away another, but her statement soberly indicates that some things will never be normal no matter who perpetrates them and what name they are perpetrated in.
Kateřina Tučková’s prose may be uninteresting for interpreters who see literary values mostly in formal raids. However, if we consider social dimensions of literary work, this is a turning book in a way, which masterfully fulfils one of the potential and important functions of literature. It is a means of self-reflection for a particular community, which is the Czech nation in this case."
Pavel Janoušek, Host
From the reviews for the English edition (Amazon Crossing, 2021)
“The story is an unvarnished chronicle of a young woman doing what she must to protect herself and her daughter.”
Historical Novel Society
“Gerta’s main strength is its lyrical language, translated exquisitely from the original Czech into English by Véronique Firkusny. The nimble text elevates the narrative and evokes deep emotions, while succinct descriptions capture Gerta’s―and her country’s―pitiable condition.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Tučková has tackled one [of] the most difficult chapters in European history, one that has been influencing the relationship between two nations for decades. It’s a tale of prejudice, of exclusion and collective shame. Gerta is both a disturbing novel and a wonderful piece of literature that could easily become a classic.”
The Constant Reader