Original title: Chirurg
In the operating theatre and beyond, it is sometimes difficult to tell who is playing what game, who wins and who loses, and where the next path will lead.
“I can’t do right for doing wrong. My life has broken in two and I’ve no lifeline left to cling to,” muses Dr Hynek Grábl, a hospital surgeon in the borderlands, who is losing hope of ever getting his life back on track.
Grábl’s career as an elite surgeon at a Prague clinic was ended by an alcohol-fuelled disaster, the consequences of which are borne by his disgruntled wife and teenage children as well as by himself. Not only is his life in bad shape, so are his finances. All the symptoms of a mid-life crisis seem to be heading Grábl’s way, and the rollercoaster ride by which he swerves from its path often ends in a hangover. What could possibly help him? His beloved profession? A lover? An interesting new opening with the promise of career growth?
All Hynek G. can do is trust that he will not sink to the very bottom.
“Chirurg / The Surgeon, Petra Dvořáková' latest novel, is a torrid extract from the life of a doctor confronting his mid-life crisis, alcohol, his own failings and his ever-dissatisfied wife.
The strength of most texts by Petra Dvořáková, the Magnesia Litera award winner for 2006, lies in their naturalness and their capacity to narrate about the world credibly. She does not judge her characters, but she does observe them eagle-eyed in the midst of their lives: seeking, broken, resentful, yearning, lacking, authentic. The author has the courage to give up all efforts to experiment with the form, and so basically she "just" narrates – with a feeling for detail, characterization, language and setting.
Language plays an important role here (as in the novel Dědina / The Village in which by way of a change the author played the Vysočina dialect). The colloquial Czech with vernacular expressions and vulgarisms, which is given the required space in the ich-form here, enhances the chief protagonist's authenticity, sounds spontaneous and fills in the surgeon's personal profile appropriately. The hospital environment is also portrayed very plausibly. Petra Dvořáková used to work as an anaesthetist nurse, so she knows what she is writing about. When she describes a leg amputation or an operation on a postwoman bitten by a dog, she handles the medical terminology and jargon in masterly fashion and raises the tension well. She is also very convincing when she is depicting the backroom intrigues, opportunism and professional rivalry in the field.“
Petra Smítalová, Lidové noviny
“An honest, well-written story in a hospital setting, where we all feel vulnerable and on the brink of life-changing moments.
Here we see it through the eyes of an insider, a doctor who has people's fates in his hands every day. The intrigues, relationship issues at home and the workplace, growing children, dying parents – a combination of everyday banalities that we can all relate to. Dvořáková leads us through this world in masterly fashion. The authenticity of the healthcare establishment operational details is quite chilling.“
Bianca Bellová, Salon, Právo
“This is not a book under the sway of a boozer (there is a minimum of drunken scenes). Nor does it involve a desire to depict a shipwreck and its abandonment. Nor is it a dramatic structure with a dénouement (although the ending of this novel is quite excellent). This is actually a life line onto which the author has poked her finger, wound up the plot to point y and then taken her finger off again. Without apathy or a desire for dénouement or any urge to write some kind of life wisdom. In this incredibly "casual" way she has succeeded in sketching out one man's story (…) We cannot in fact reproach Dvořáková for anything. The plot will immediately draw you in (…), and here, too, we have to praise the author, as she has an excellent knowledge of what she is writing about.
Petra Dvořáková's literature involves the much-talked-about return to writing: pure writing without any ulterior intentions or desire to change the world. (…) Ninety percent.“
Zdeněk Svoboda, Krajské listy
“Petra Dvořáková has joined the ranks of the most popular Czech authors, as her latest novel The Surgeon has the prospect of being well placed among the bestsellers. This story of a middle-aged doctor with his professional proficiency on the one hand but alcohol and a midlife crisis on the other is a rewarding subject. Petra Dvořáková has turned out to be a fine storyteller, and she knows the hospital background from her days as a nurse. This novel reminded me of an author who gained fame through his excellent knowledge of his settings. In his day the father of the professional novel genre Arthur Hailey was one of the most successful authors in the world. (…) I recommend The Surgeon as a successful Czech variation on his work.“
Zdenko Pavelka, Mezi řádky, Kosmas