Original title: Bláznův kabát
Druhé město, 2015
Martin Fahrner is living proof that an author who doesn’t produce new work continually, is dead. But he’s proof, too, that if this author writes a book that becomes part of the reader’s frame of reference, maybe he isn’t – quite. Fahrner achieved this feat in 2001, with his debut work The Invincible Seven. Three years later he followed it up with a slim work entitled The Folly of the Doctor of Winnetouology. Then he was silent for ten years.
Now Martin Fahrner is back with The Madman’s Coat, a take on Europe immediately after the fall of the Iron Curtain – a Europe that is open; a Europe where everyone must close his own gate, without a ‘brother’s’ supervision. People are wandering the continent, part-homeless, part-refugee. Yet it is not the author’s ambition to create a giant fresco of Europe containing ‘everything’ other than what matters most – a human dimension.
As in his previous works, Fahrner writes mainly about people. He likes his characters, and he cheers them on. This doesn’t mean, however, that he idealizes their lives in any way. The author, too, has his fingers crossed that they’ll find the right path. But where will the path lead? Homewards, towards the heart . . .
Perhaps no other Czech author shows such empathy for his characters in precise description of a modern world where people can do whatever they choose but rarely change anything as a result. - Ondřej Horák
"We can imagine Bláznův kabát / The Madman's Coat as a map of Europe, on part of which the author has drawn in the trajectories of several characters. The novel begins in 1980s Czechoslovakia, but most of it then takes place after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when the floodgates opened up not only at the borders between states, but also in perspectives and the opportunities to choose your own life path and strategy. So for example the originally strongly unconventional Šárka shifts gear to become a respectable bourgeois professional, because (to retain the vocabulary of the novel) she found Radek had worn the madman's coat too much."
Josef Chuchma, Lidové noviny
“In novels the present is rather difficult to depict in a way that makes it comprehensible and believable. This is probably why huge historical novels are more popular these days along with non-fiction. In Martin Fahrner’s fourth prose work, which he has called The Madman’s Coat, he has chosen the form of brief testimonies by several characters. Out of these discourses a story gradually emerges, branching out from the 1970s to the present day.
The introduction belongs to a Czech family, but it gradually turns into a kind of European mosaic, in which the fortunes of the Czechs merge with those of other Europeans. In Fahrner’s view, however, nationality does not seem to be that important - except in the case of a woman who escaped the hell of turbulent Yugoslavia. But thanks to this contradiction, Fahrner has succeeded in portraying the adriftness, the prolixity and the uncertainty that is becoming increasingly characteristic of Europe. If that were the end of the matter, Fahrner’s attempt to depict the present day would be just another commonplace descriptive prose work, but The Madman’s Coat aims to find a way out, if you will, an understanding or a reconciliation. The people he has populated his book with manage to make sense of life - no matter how much that may sound like a cliché. Fahrner has the German trucker known as the Skater, who is no intellectual but actually something of a dimwit, remark about a couple who managed this and who were said by some drivers to have been seen by them in some parking lot: Sat on folding chairs, they held each other’s hands and read to a child from a book. It was said to be surely them and they looked happy. I won’t make any excuses for them. Nothing against anyone. I know it’s necessary, and this way this world without love is filled up. Yes, it is this simple, and Martin Fahner has hit upon it. His mosaic novel The Madman’s Coat is published by Druhé město.”
Zdenko Pavelka, Knižní pól, Kosmas
“What is of interest is the sophisticated form that the author has chosen to tell a rather diffuse tale set in the 1980s and 1990s, involving the alternating speeches of over a dozen various protagonists.
Thanks to his interesting life experience, Fahner has been able to draw extensively from his own past, so the dividing line between real events and fiction is quite blurred. Although a lot of experiences from the author’s life appear in this book (his work as a guide in the Tatras, driving a truck, his sick child), they are adapted in various ways.
His latest work in the proverbial Czech literary pond is one of his meatier pieces.”
Vojtěch Kučera, Lógr