The Den

Jakuba Katalpa

Jakuba Katalpa: The Den

Original title: Doupě

Genre: novel


Host 2017

ISBN: 978-80-7577-128-5

Pages: 312

Rights sold to:

Slovenia (Police Dubove)


Missed encounters, misunderstanding, parallel lives and above all loneliness in a complex, multi‑layered novel set in the present.


To assuage feelings of loneliness and uselessness that have afflicted her since her husband’s death, Květa creates a small room — a den — in the basement of her house. She is waiting for a visitor, to whom she will tell her life story having first shut him up in the den.

While Květa tends her prisoner, in America, Akiko Ikeda is dying of cancer. The chemotherapy isn’t working, and Akiko’s husband is gradually losing hope that she will get better.

Hoang Thi Anh leaves her native Vietnam and travels to distant Prague, where she will help her daughter with her household and small business. The estrangement she feels on arrival is familial and generational as well as cultural.

The paths of the three protagonists briefly intersect in Prague before each continues on her separate way.


The most breathtaking moment arrives when the author succeeds in convincing the reader that it is absolutely normal to shut a stranger up in a basement and keep him there for months. Hats off to her!  

Monika Zavřelová, MF DNES


An extraordinarily gripping, highly original narrative about people passing each other by, and fear in various forms […] The author succeeds in showing how something twisted can grow out of deep sorrow, an unfulfilled longing for tenderness and a sense of injustice. There is a paradox in how her minimalist, precise and sober style, which allows her to describe people and events at a distance, reveals to uncompromising effect all the emotions bubbling below the surface.  

Petra Smítalová, Instinkt


Since the 1980s at least, a protagonist kidnapped and imprisoned by a psychopath has proved a rewarding subject for thriller writers. John Fowles’s excellent novel The Collector is a case in point. The most recent work to make a great impression in this field is Emma Donoghue’s Room, an innovative study of what happens to hostages after they go free.  […] 

Jakuba Katalpa draws the reader in with her economical, polished style. She likes to tell her story in short, simple sentences. Only occasionally does she branch out into a complex sentence, and even then what she writes is matter-of-fact, even austere. Chapters are mostly short, some comprising only a few paragraphs, some just a single sentence. At the beginning especially, this approach creates a succession of vivid static images that prepare us for the drama to come. And when this drama arrives, how splendid it is!

Pavel Mandys, Hospodářské noviny


Katalpa presents us with a comprehensive prose world depicting a search for answers to questions at once ordinary and vital.     

Petr Hanuška, Hospodářské noviny


All the characters are profoundly lonely, irrespective of whether they have spent decades in the same place or live thousands of miles from their true home. Even in the company of a partner or surrounded by family, they are alone. And they are alone because something has gone wrong in their lives that cannot be put right.

Katalpa has written a novel filled with great sadness, anxiety and helplessness. She describes loneliness in its rawest, truest form. Because she refrains from pathos and manipulation of the emotions, the lives of her characters ring true, and this is her greatest strength.

Lucie Zelinková, Právo


Katalpa touches on Stockholm syndrome, a condition that produces a bizarre relationship between captor and hostage and an inability to foster healthy relationships.

Jana Podskalská, Deník


Like The Germans, this work is written in a matter-of-fact style, and the reader finds the story easy to follow. Yet there is sensuality here, too: Katalpa draws us into her world through precise description of sensation. As the reader goes ever deeper into the feelings of the characters, touch, smell, taste and hearing are all engaged by her vivid style.     

Veronika Havlová, Respekt

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