Jiří Kratochvil (80) at last wins Magnesia Litera prize, having four times made the shortlist

Jiří Kratochvil (80) at last wins Magnesia Litera prize, having four times made the shortlist

On Monday, 31 August, following a five-month delay because of the coronavirus crisis, the winners of the annual Magnesia Litera awards were announced. The Prose prize went to Jiří Kratochvil for the novel Fox into Lady / Liška v dámu.

The novel Fox into Lady by Jiří Kratochvil is the author’s fourth book pitching for the domestic fiction award, following Actor / Herec nominated for 2007, Circular-Drive Hunt / Kruhová leč (2012) and Good Night, Sweet Dreams / Dobrou noc, sladké sny (2012).

In an article for the Lidové noviny daily, Radim Kopáč writes:

“Jiří Kratochvil – one of the greatest talents of Czech prose active since the changes of ’89, a pillar of Czech postmodernism, an irrepressible storyteller inspired by the novels of Milan Kundera and the magic realism of Latin America – has done it at last! His voice unmistakeable from the very first sentence, Kratochvil excels as short-story writer, novelist and essayist. Fox into Lady is a typically brilliant offering that in its depiction of the destructive totalitarianism of the 20th-century, most notably Stalinism, goes very much its own way. The transformation of the title is a snug fit for Kratochvil’s fantastical plan: one day you’re down, the next you’re up; what was true yesterday is today true no longer. Deal with it, dear reader…” 

Statement by the Magnesia Litera jury:

Jiří Kratochvil, one of the most translated Czech authors, represents a contemporary Czech prose that rejects traditional literary realism. Set in the 1950s, the novel Fox into Lady has two intersecting storylines. The more realistic tells of a young labourer from Brno called Pavel, a promising informer for the national security forces who, because of his gift for languages, is chosen to go over to the West to create a diversion at Radio Free Europe. The more fantastical story is that of a young fox. Stalin (referred to as the Master) sets scientists at the Pavlov Institute the task of transforming the fox into a woman. Called Sylva, this woman will head Westwards to murder Winston Churchill. The storylines come together when the two protagonists meet in the free world – after which life itself proves stronger than the intentions of those on high. The novel Fox into Lady is a tribute to the literary imagination; more than just a play of words and images, it is a powerful story of the interconnection and incompatibility of different worlds and a celebration of human and vulpine freedom. 

1. 9. 2020