Reconstruction

Viktorie Hanišová

Viktorie Hanišová: Reconstruction

Original title: Rekonstrukce


Genre: novel


Publisher:

Host, 2019


ISBN: 978-80-7577-817-8


Pages: 311


Foreign editions:

Macedonian (Muza, 2020, Igor Stanojoski), Arabic (Al Arabi, 2021, Amr Shatury), German (Wieser Verlag, 2022, Raija Hauck), Croatian (Fraktura, 2022, Branka Čačković)

 

Rights sold to:

Poland (Stara Szkoła), Spain (L'Art de la Memòria Edicions)

Summary


Mere survival is no kind of life.

 

“When I was born, I was nine years, ten months and seven days old.” With these words, Eliška, protagonist of the novel Reconstruction, begins her story. She spends her childhood in her reclusive aunt’s dark villa, of no interest to anyone. At least, this is how it seems, judging by the reactions of those around her.  

Eliška has her origins in murder. Her mother killed her younger brother and then herself, leaving no letter of farewell. Those who saw Eliška’s mother on the day of the tragedy noticed nothing unusual. Eliška has grown up in ten years of emptiness. When she is an adult, she has decided, she will find answers to the questions that nag her. What truly happened? Why did her mother do it? And why didn’t she take Eliška with her…  

In her third novel, Viktorie Hanišová writes of the attraction of empty places and the urgent call of a fall into darkness. Sometimes, even an attempt to find stability in life can take you to the cliff edge…  


Reviews

The druse of contemporary Czech novels about women's turbulent fortunes and family tragedies caused by crippled relations has grown by another crystal thanks to this work. After the racial prejudice and abuse in the author's previous books, we come to the irrationality of human actions and the difficulty of explaining them logically. "I hardly ever read the news and practically never watch TV  these days." Murderess mothers under the sway of eschatological ideas. The calm diction of a clear description does not let itself be provoked into expressive convulsions even in moments of the most intense emotion. Hanišová  does not permit the network of narrative probabilities to disrupt the metaphorical focus.  A story within a cocoon of the everyday without second level resonances.

Petr Bílek, Literární noviny

 

The protagonist investigates all manner of contexts, seeking connections, but finding nothing but more questions. She seeks help from psychology and philosophy, looks for parallels in history,  examines her own dreams and the internet, juggles with conspiracy theories, interrogates criminologists, relations, a father who totally dropped out after a double death and dissolved in alcohol. The first quarter of this book is action-packed. The author appears confidently on the scene and sets the story in motion with craftsmanlike assurance in a realist style, free of all imagery, fantasy, playfulness or experimentation. In terms of genre, this is a psychological novel with thriller and detective story elements.

Radim Kopáč, MF DNES

 

After a Roma child is adopted and then abused by the father, as dealt with in the previous novels, author Viktorie Hanišová sets the protagonist of her third book before another difficult subject. Her latest work Reconstruction is an attempt at reconstruction, both involving death and life. Hence the continuation of the author's efforts to seek meaning and "normality".

In her books, Hanišová repeatedly subjects family relations to onerous examinations, observing how childhood traumas disrupt the protagonists' adult lives.

(…)
All of these stories focus on distinctive female protagonists with disrupted relationships. (…) The idea of maternity as simply being every woman's fulfilling sacrifice is also disrupted here.

Viktorie Hanišová's latest novel is no exception from any of the above, and problematic relations between mothers and daughters probably apply to all the female characters in the book. Eliška does not decide to untangle hers until she is an architecture student, whose greatest interest in the restoration of historical buildings.  A fortuitous parallel for her reconstruction of the family murder/suicide.  But then life is not a building project and Eliška's model gradually starts falling apart.

(…)
 As memory no longer serves as a fixed point, the questions pile up and certainties are shaken. The search for the circumstances surrounding the murder/suicide is increasingly used by the author to indicate a more general desire to find out whether everything in our life has to make sense and to what extent we are the architects of our own destinies.  

Jana Benediktová, ČT 24

 

Hanišová writes in her typically agreeable and suitably straightforward (in view of the narrative) language, which enables her chief protagonist to speak forth and her readers to look deep into her thoughts. Obsessively she sets out on the track of her past, while rather neglecting her present life.

The author has the skill to handle the smallest details of a sick soul without  actually referring to her unwell state, thus placing the readers more and more at the heart of the problem without ever pointing out what an unusual journey they have undertaken. Hanišová's realistic narrative is superb, as is her rendering of the smallest and most evocative details.

Just like the previous two novels, Reconstruction inveighs against human inquisitiveness and the urge to peep into the weird family's window next door to find out what iniquity is going on there. 

Lucie Zelinková, Právo

 

Reconstruction is not just about Eliška's search for an investigator, the witnesses  and her mother's relatives and friends, and it is not just a reconstruction of the case in an effort to understand her mother's motives, as to a large extent this is a story without motive or motivation, but involving the interplay of multiple circumstances and coincidences.

The author writes of the Medeas of the present, the mutability of our view of history, in memories or tangible artefacts, in a story with a thrilling plot.

Aňa Ostrihoňová, Rádio FM

 

As Eliška grows up, she increasingly wants to understand what happened that time many years ago, but the more she gets into her mother's story, the less she is able to live her own life.

Thanks to this storyline, this book can be read as a detective procedural. In her desire to discover the truth, the maturing Eliška meets the investigator and the people who knew her mother, as she seeks out all possible information, but this is not actually a detective novel: another motive that Hanišová plays with is the way we let the past control our present life. 

This book is like a slap in the face, which you get right at the start, and whose mark stays on your metaphorical face for the rest of the book. After this first slap you might naively think you have the worst behind you, but the author paints the relatively idyllic (within the bounds of possibility)  nature of the story page after page in darker hues, so that by the end you are in deep, dark woods, where you feel afraid and you get the idea you're not going to see the blue sky or the forest edge.

(…)

First and foremost, the author examines Eliška and her struggle for life. Here the maternal instinct, which is often romantically idealized, proves to be fragile and vulnerable, which makes her book so strong and interesting.

(…)

We can also see Reconstruction as a kind of small monument to sad cases. In the book she actually refers to several real-life cases of violence on children, which resonated in the mass media. Although the main story was born in Viktorie Hanišová's mind, by mentioning real cases she wishes to send readers a clear message: even though you are reading a novel, all this really does happen.

Tomáš Fojtík, Deník N

 

The first-person narrative grows out of the detective motif – why did Eliška's mother commit such a dreadful act – and it is accompanied by the fortunes of Eliška's friend Romana, a single mother, while there is no lack of a colourful array of witnesses to these long-past events, with scenes from the lives of architecture students and Eliška's love affair.  All of this happens at a brisk pace during tense scenes; Hanišová even fills the pages of her novel (in line with her planned pathological trilogy) with the complex casuistry of murderess mothers, but Eliška does not manage to crack a key question – her mother's act lacks a plausible motive. Whereas Mornštajnová moves the story in her Years of Silence / Tiché roky into the safety and security of all-healing time, Hanišová, by contrast, highlights the insecurity and the darkly infectious attraction of irrational behaviour.

It appears that in line with the varying extent of their life experience, these authors target the various age categories of their readers, most probably of both sexes: Years of Silence / Tiché roky by Alena Mornštajnová clearly focuses on the more mature and discerning reader, while Reconstruction by Viktorie Hanišová focuses on those who prefer action-packed thrills and spills. However, both of them have ambitions to break through the boundaries of their given genre – one into a family saga taking place in a world changing with the times, plus a detective plot, and the other into a rather illustratively conceived sphere of irrationally pathological behaviour.

Tomáš Sedláček, Český rozhlas

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