Is Soil to be Eaten?

Jakuba Katalpa

Jakuba Katalpa: Is Soil to be Eaten?

Original title: Je hlína k snědku?

Genre: novella


Paseka, 2006; Host, 2021

ISBN: 80-7185-816-1

Pages: 112


shortlisted for Magnesia Litera in the Newcomer of the Year category, 2007


This work of prose by a young woman writer is written with exceptional strength of expression. The narration of the main hero Nina cursorily depicts the history of her family, yet its focus is on a present populated with a husband, lovers and a female lover. It is a story about searching for a way to the self, and it is told with uncompromising openness. The sequence of short, dense episodes allows random change in time and plot, creating contrasts, indicating parallels, evoking atmosphere by suggestion. This short novella surprises by its range and depth and captivates by its unusual subject matter and composition.


Annotation for the second edition (2021):

First book by the author of the bestsellers Zuzana’s Breath / Zuzanin dech and The Germans/ Němci

Her name is Nina. She used to draw, but since she married, she finds she no longer can. Why? Her husband has surrounded her with luxury and cleanness to the point of asepticism. She resists having a child with him. She leaves him alone to be with other men and women. She roams – in reality, and in her memories of her unconventional grandmother, who worked as a doctor in Africa. She searches for a way, to the self and to her art. Like the narrator of One Thousand and One Nights, Nina draws the reader into her stories by weaving together past and present. Her evocative confession bombards the senses to sometimes jolting effect; here an erotic passage, there a discussion of the catalogue of the Lefranc Huile paints company.

In 2006, Is Soil to Be Eaten?/ Je hlína k snědku? propelled Jakuba Katalpa onto the Czech literary scene and announced her as a presence to be reckoned with. Shortlisted for a Magnesia Litera prize, the novella attracted critical acclaim for its play with language, its poetic qualities, and the fluidity of its genre.

Although more experimental in its language and composition, this debut work shares many features with the author’s later work, including economy of style, contrasting views of a situation, humour and irony, the unspoken or half-said, and space for the reader’s imagination.    

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