Original title: Černý domeček
Polish (Vesper, 2007, Joanna Derdowska), German (Braumüller Literaturverlag, 2010, Mirko Kraetsch)
Although the residents of the Little Black House, which was long ago purchased by the tailor Vodrážka, live in the dramatically changing world of the twentieth century, they are affected only obliquely by all the social upheavals. Over the generations, the little house has become the centre of their universe, as if it exerted over them some kind of secret force … But the book’s main theme is neither the family nor social development, but rather hidden aspects of the everyday, the way in which the fibres of fate are bound together. Though ordinary life in small-town South Bohemia has changed little in a hundred years, the author’s take on things – enriched by historical and etymological explanations and essay-style observations – makes of this a gripping story something more enthralling than many an event of “world” significance.
"… [the author] makes an inventory of Czech history as if performing a naturalistic vivisection, in which the lives of several generations appear as a sequence of strokes of fate recorded in the biological-sociological register. Here, spirituality and history-making are subject to the inscrutable, unchallengeable dictates of procreation and dying, staying alive and a condition of inertia in those who rule, all of which show no regard for ideology, politics, culture, or any other external 'rubbish'. One simply has to live, and this is perhaps the only thing there is to say on the subject; still, it is immensely interesting to observe, describe and compare individual manifestations and forms of this basic cosmic force. Komárek achieves this with real gusto and erudition, flaunting his skills as a fabulist."
Jiří Peňás, Literární noviny
"In his second novel Stanislav Komárek succeeds splendidly in drawing together genres as diverse as the chronicle, the essay, the thoughtless conversation about whatever or nothing. [...] Komárek whisks us through the twentieth century at a relentless pace, but his window on the world has much to show us."
Gabriel Pleska, Tvar
"By the dispassionate nature of its point of view and its sense of historical irony, this work of Komárek's is reminiscent of Patrik Ouředník's Europeana, even if in formal terms these two works are very different to one another. The great pace of events of the twentieth century and their influence on human life per se seem to provide ever greater inspiration for authors of diverse types."
Antonín K. K. Kudláč, Host
"Stanislav Komárek tells his story of The Little Black House in a language which is fresh and lustrous. His poetics is a stranger to over-adornment and empty phrasemaking. For all this, the work is interlaced and brightened with meanderings, essayist's insertions, and interpretations of history, philosophy, etymology and ethology."
Milena M. Marešová, Lidové noviny
"The Little Black House [...] is, as we might have expected of Komárek, an essay of great range and charm, overflowing with polyhistorical insights and a kindly if ironic openness to the world. [...] For individuals he has less time, handling them much as a Hollywood film-maker would treat his supporting actors. There is no display of deeper human psychology; the characters are simply led on to the stage, described in outline, several important incidents in their lives are detailed, and then they die. This approach is hardly typical of Czech literature, and it is refreshing. We are here, as are other people, and the differences between us and them are like those between beetles and bugs; whether we like it or not, our lives are determined by more powerful forces and systems than we, in our obstinacy, care to admit."
Zdenko Pavelka, Salon