The Garden

Petra Dvořáková

Petra Dvořáková: The Garden

Original title: Zahrada

Genre: novel


Host, 2022

ISBN: 978-80-275-1348-2

Pages: 200

Rights sold to:

Poland (Stara Szkoła), Macedonia (Muza)


How to live with an unasked-for white elephant


A long-uninhabited villa with a neglected garden. A crushing loss to overcome. Thirty-five-year-old Jaroslav Havlát returns to his childhood home with his life at a crossroads. After botching his ‘career in the church’, he intends to follow a new path, on his own terms at last. He may be struggling with burnout, loneliness and feelings of alienation in respect of everyone and everything, but not all hope has been extinguished. He finds his only refuge in the neglected garden, his work in it his only joy. In splendid isolation among trees, shrubs and flowers, he attempts to find the self he has lost and some meaning in life. Little by little, he gets to know his neighbours and tracks down sources of his alienation. The latter process is sometimes a fraught one: acquisition of self-knowledge is more terrifying than he could have imagined. Where to draw the line between rejection and acceptance of the unacceptable? Will he find even one person to understand him and lend a helping hand? Is there any way out of this darkness?    

A brilliantly written, intimate drama about an inner struggle, this book will test the reader’s tolerance, empathy, and willingness to consider and ‘trust’ the seemingly unacceptable. Perhaps for the first time, a Czech novelist has addressed a certain highly taboo, deeply intimate subject in a sensitive, non-sensationalist manner.

Maybe I’m exploring the line between a weakness that a person ‘has’ and where this weakness is a part of the self. In Crows, the narrative was weighted towards childhood, which is always pure and innocent. In The Garden, I tell the story of an adult who has done a lot of living, some of it good, some of it bad, as tends to happen. Whereas Barunka in Crows could rely on the reader’s support, for the protagonist of The Garden I’d say sympathy is harder to find.

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