Original title: Bílá zvířata jsou velmi často hluchá
Genre: short stories
shortlisted for Magnesia Litera for Prose
Polish (Dowody na Istnienie, 2018, Elżbieta Zimna), Slovenian (Police Dubove, 2019, Tatjana Jamnik), Serbian (Zavet, 2021, Marija Ilić)
Book of short stories by a charismatic young Czech author whose first work, Nícení / The Inflaming, was widely praised by readers and critics alike.
The characters of the book are imprisoned in their lives like a stag’s nape in a perished tyre; they rattle pelmets, carve up galls and wake gall wasps, make time-catchers, and, most importantly, feed intrepidly on the rotting apples of truth. The women inundate the men with tirades; the men send down silence on the women. The characters are aware of their weaknesses, and they expect their guilt to be punished justly. They do not trail in the wake of adverse historical events; they are the agents of their own drama. They are always afraid of or recoiling from something, and sometimes they kill inadvertently. Perhaps a little self-love would lead to happier endings and beginnings. But how to get this into them without them vomiting it out again?
”The words used by Alexandra Berková to characterize Ivana Myšková’s debut work The Inflaming would apply equally to this collection of short stories. 'Although this work may disappoint those who gulp stories down whole, for others it is a joy to read. With its highly sophisticated language and refined expressiveness, it rides a wave of verbal brilliance.' Yet this second book is charged with a quality that may engage even the ‘gulper’; here the verbal wave drives the plot, creating a tragicomedy with a lining of eroticism and inspiring answers to confusing questions. It bears the message that compassion has an uplifting, enriching effect.”
Antonín Bajaja, novelist, poet and journalist
”The reader will surely notice that each of the twelve stories in Ivana Myšková’s collection is preceded by a remarkable quotation from one of a great variety of authors. It can be imagined that these mottos inspired the author, as she has built her situations with great inventiveness. The connection between motto and story becomes apparent late in each story, and it is always surprising. The prose shares an artistic pedigree with the work of Věra Lindhartová and Jiří Kratochvil: the creative process is informed and supported by an awareness that this is a work of conceit. Ivana Myšková goes her own way, however. Developments are driven by an insistent, obsessive imagination, taking in ever more surprising and impressively specific details, plus experiences and thoughts that suddenly give off a fragrance or stench of ‘real life’. The narrative is by turns humorous, grotesque and compassionate. Again and again I was surprised by a fascinating adventure played out in a human world filled with unnamed chasms. It has much to tell us about humanity today – about that which raises the storyteller’s imagery from the deep.”
Milan Uhde, novelist, dramatist, scriptwriter and politician
”In this collection of short stories, Ivana Myšková has truly sought out strangeness and divergence from the norm. What she fashions is bizarre, deranged and disturbed, be it a white stag with its head stuck in a black tyre, a boy afflicted with progeria, hymenopterous wasps forming unsightly globules of gall on oak leaves, or an absurd homemade ant-house made of blue jelly. No made-up thing is so strange that it is weirder still than the world we inhabit.
These stories would be tragicomic or grotesque were they not overwhelmingly tragic and didn’t provoke in the reader a sense that not only are all these crazy things quite possible, they are decocted from reality. We don’t need events of small- or large-scale history, utopias and dystopias, nor to immerse ourselves in the nation’s past; the four walls of our prefabricated flat, with its own Jacuzzi that sets the crooked teeth of our mental interior in a whirl, and our own wife, who constantly reflects our bad self, provide quite enough bizarreness to test our firmness of character.”
Olga Stehlíková, Český rozhlas
Ivana Myšková speaks to the deaf
”The basic attraction for readers of Ivana Myšková’s work lies in the fact that she voices the unvoiceable (or unvoiced). In the lives of her characters (i.e. in our own lives), the verbal fails as a means of communication. How could it succeed when the right words cannot be found? Even if they could be, we neither wish to nor know how to look for them.”
Jana Benediktová, Česká televize 24
Writer Myšková wraps eccentricities in absurd plots
[…] ”The reader is reminded of the inspired work of 1960s masters of the short story, with Julio Cortázar in the vanguard, and of that of contemporary star of the short form Alice Munro.
Myšková shares with the Argentinian writer a liking for absurdities of plot, strange characters and subtle humour. With the Canadian Nobel laureate she shares an accent on the psychological development of characters whose pasts and natures she reveals in the course of the story with great sensitivity.
[…] We have cause to hope that this author, by her mastery of style and enviable understanding of the relations and thoughts of her characters, is establishing herself as a leading light of Czech literature.”
Pavel Mandys, Hospodářské noviny
Neurotic animals in a cage of illusion
”This author’s style is highly polished; not a single word is unsure or surplus to requirements.
[…] She may be still in the foothills, but Myšková is already treading the path to the summit of Parnassus. Her writing abounds in intelligence, stylistic refinement and wit.”
Marek Jančík, Iliteratura
A tyre around the neck
”Ivana Myšková’s second book is a masterclass of style filled with sad eccentricity.
[…] The writing […] in this collection panders to nothing and no one. It lifts the reader from the comfort of the narrative couch and seeks to reward him with the key to lives locked in rooms of personal vulnerability and self-deception. […]
The sophisticated psychological analysis doesn’t stop being literature. Indeed, the style, language and form come together in a distinctive, precise depiction of interpersonal relations, inner lives and family histories.”
Kateřina Čopjaková, Respekt
”The revealing of motivations that inform behaviour often presents the characters as ridiculous figures; as we laugh at them, we scorn them a little, too. But soon we realize how much we have in common with them and find that we are laughing at ourselves. This kind of therapy isn’t for everyone, but it works surprisingly well and gives the book an extra dimension that takes it beyond most other works of fiction. The work as a whole is permeated by the author’s skill as a stylist, which she demonstrates in spades. Everything fits together snugly, nothing grates, and the reader is never distracted by displays of exhibitionism. The language and style work only to serve the central idea. ”[…]
White Animals shows the promise of a great talent in prose. There is no doubt that it will stand out from this year’s literary harvest. We can be confident that Host’s ranks have been strengthened by another writer of pedigree.”
Vladimír Stanzel, Host