Original title: Havířovina
A novelist looks into the past of a mysterious house in her home village. How will her mission end?
The Havíř house is a neglected, unsightly place in a small village. Rumour has it that it attracts bad things – the people in it either die or bring misfortune on others. And who knows, maybe it is home to ghosts too! A seemingly insignificant remark by her mother – that there is smoke coming from the chimney of the Havíř house – inspires the protagonist to take a closer look. Entering the past through interviews with people of the village, she does all she can to discover if there truly is something supernatural about the place, or if it is all just coincidence and bad luck. By writing a novel about the house, she hopes to achieve the literary success that has so far eluded her, and thus to put her difficult life in order. Her journey of adventure into the past brings her face to face with old fears and introduces her to new ones. But what will her return to the village of her birth and her keenness to write a novel do to her?
"The Havíř House is quite different from my previous books. Although I’m no great fan of change, in my writing I like to experiment with various genres, characters and settings. In this book, I’ve kept cynicism to a minimum, although it may escape me from time to time." Iva Hadj Mousa
"At first this story looks like dreadful cock and bull, but from about halfway through, the supernatural horror spills over into physical reality. The paranormal is replaced by a tangle of domestic violence, morbid jealousy, infidelity and threats. It all ends up in a surprising but indeed a believable dénouement.
Iva Hadj Moussa’s third book will not disappoint. The Havíř House includes features we recognize from A Demon from a Housing Estate: good dialogue, a believable insight into the minds of the main characters and a mystical theme laced with genuine humour. Moreover, she has added an apt reflection on contemporary Czech literature to the story and offered an insight into the writing profession. What’s more, she has broadened the range of potential readers with this vaguely defined genre."
Anna Pýchová, Denník N
"This story of a slowly ageing writer, whose life has gone back to the beginning as she stays at her parents’ home alone, is spiced up with detective, romance and horror elements as well as existential questions.
The Havíř House would work well in a film adaptation — a haunted house and the shadows of a village’s past revealed by a strong heroine with a sophisticated personal dimension... The masterful use of language and the plausibility of all the characters and the situations in which they operate, however, elevate the book far above the average fleapit tropes."
Klára Fleyberková, Host
"After her successful novel A Demon from a Housing Estate, Iva Hadj Moussa moved from her small-town black-metal-band rehearsal room to the countryside. (…) The narration is once again masterful and enjoyably light. The search for the fate of the inhabitants of a run-down house might sometimes resemble a criminal investigation or reportage prose, but the narrator distances herself from both genres with all sorts of digressions: memories of her childhood, a brief old dalliance, or caustic allusions to current literary trends. The search reveals skeletons in closets and messes swept under carpets, even in seemingly harmonious households.
What is ultimately worse than the terrifying ghosts of a haunted house is the evil and fear caused by alcohol, infidelity, domestic violence, sexism and the abuse of young girls."
Karel Kouba, A2
"The capacity for (self-) irony, sarcasm and insight into what is often painfully absurd everyday life has all but died out, so it is with all the more joy that we welcome a book like Iva Hadj Moussa’s novel Havíř House - a genre-balanced mix straight out of the Netflix labs, based on a formula whose characteristics might well include: comic, chilling, mainstream, dark, humorous, suspenseful, rural and witty. (…)
In her humorous and yet slightly chilling narrative, Moussa is able with ease to weave a lively love story together with local gossip and legends, while not losing the rhythm of the overall investigation."
Eva Klíčová, Seznam Zprávy
"Briefly regarding the last level [of the book]. This is a socio-critical and very important area. When the heroine comes across different forms of relationships during her search - not only in the past, it has to be said, but literally in her neighbourhood - she finds different forms of violence committed by men against women, if only verbally, which were traditionally, especially in rural areas, covered up by public opinion as something that is either not talked about or actually normal. If Havíř House carries a more general message, then it is that this is not normal and should not be normalized. If any of the participants in that part of the current critical discourse, which is exhausted by the dilemma between aesthetic immanentism and “being engagé”, needed proof of how literary fiction reflects contemporary social debates, then Hadj Moussa offers it - and at the same time proof of where this debate has shifted in recent years. Needless to say, this is a good thing. (…)
The way Hadj Moussa evokes the rural setting without resorting to clichés, the way she lets particular stages of life and situations unfold naturally, and above all the way she brings to light issues that until recently were only discussed in private, if at all, turn this into full-blooded fiction, with ambitions that are not exaggerated, but satisfactorily achieved."
Jan M. Heller, Iliteratura
"Last year’s Demon from a Housing Estate was a great black-metal coming-of-age, and this year’s Havíř House is not far behind it.
The search, consisting of numerous interviews with the inhabitants of the village, at first resembles something like a true crime novel. (…) Over time, however, it turns out that the attractive detective line primarily leads the narrator to reveal hidden grievances that blind eyes have been turned to for a long time and which have come out all the more dramatically.
Indifference to the suffering and hardships of others is one of the crucial themes of this novel. Iva Hadj Moussa also reflects in this story on an essential topic that is not very often dealt with in literature - the inability to conceive and have children. The narrator returns to the village childless, as her attempts with her ex-boyfriend have not been successful, so alas her childlessness keeps being recalled in all of this. It is not actually a central point of the novel, but it is good that the writer brings it up.
Overall, Havíř House could be a good representative of that high-quality mainstream that has been looked up to by many in the Czech literary-critical discussion for several years. This is a readable, at times very funny book that has built some important questions into a gripping story; moreover, it sensitively reflects everyday life and brings to light a number of situations that many a reader of either sex will likely encounter in their lives. (…) This latest by Iva Hadj Moussa is a pleasant surprise. (…) The Czech literary scene has been made richer by another remarkable writer."
Daniel Mukner, ČT Art
"Part detective story, part soul-searching, but above all a likeable attempt to describe contemporary life out in the countryside, with traditional formulas resisting the onslaught of novelties."
Jakub Šofar, Salon
"Moussa has used a similar concept in Havíř House as she did in A Šalina Named Desire. At first the narrative flows by as if by chance, the dialogues whizz by, the characters just coalesce as if you knew them. After all, people like that live next door to you. This is not by chance, because Moussa makes skilful use of her knowledge of characters (she graduated in psychology). She has great observational talent! There’s a haunted house in almost every village. Everyone has some fears that they carry over from childhood. And when you feel like you know what’s going to happen on the next page, the narrative kicks off so thrillingly that you’re turning one page after another till you get to the very last. Although the author has seemingly used banal pieces in her novel jigsaw - a breakup, ghosts, spirits, sex, blackmail..., together it is not banal at all. It is a detective story, and at the same time it is not. It’s a horror story, but again it’s not. It is a perfectly constructed psychological novel. For a couple of days after you’ve read it you might even have more vivid dreams and pass your neighbours more circumspectly. And you may even open up about your own childhood traumas."
Alena Němečková, Vlasta