Marek Toman

Marek TomanNovelist, poet and translator Marek Toman is passionately dedicated to Jewish culture—the culture of his father, whom he lost early in life. Born in 1967, Toman studied philosophy at Charles University, then he worked as an art editor on Czech Radio. Since 1997 he has been employed at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 2000 and 2010, Toman worked as a diplomat in Estonia and Hungary. The common theme of his poetry collections and novels is relations between the generations. In his works for children he deals with historical themes. His novel, The Big News about the Dreadful Murder of Šimon Abeles (2014), combines all the thematic lines mentioned. Toman’s books have been published in English, Finnish and Hungarian translation.



A selection of titles

Squinting Jim’s Coffeehouse

Publisher: Baobab, Tabor, 2018

ISBN: 978-80-7515-075-2
Illustrations: Františka Loubat
172 pages
Age: 9+

This parody of the American Western is a cute story about the passion for reading.

Rights sold: Macedonian

Can the desperadoes of the Wild West be domesticated by reading literary classics? Is it possible to understand one’s own life through the reading of Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, Romeo and Juliet or Winnetou? The Czech librarian Boženka does her best in her readers’ workshops at “Squinting Jim’s Coffeehouse”.

Until one day the literary criminal Dante Skunk Shakespeare arrives in town. He manages to involve Boženka in a raging intellectual struggle. Which of them will be victorious?

This light parody follows the famous Czechoslovak musical comedy “Lemonade Joe” from 1964, a parody of the American Western. But above all it is a cute story about the passion for reading, suitable for children as well as adults who want to show their children or students the value of literature. 


The Praise of Opportunism (Chvála oportunismu)

Publisher: Torst, Praha, 2016
ISBN: 978-80-7215-530-9
416 pages


The book received the „Czech Literary Fund“ award in 2017.

Rights sold: Serbian, Macedonian

Marek Toman’s fictitious memoirs have an unusual, lofty protagonist: the Černín Palace, located in the vicinity of the Prague Castle. Built in the 17th century as the residence of Humprecht Jan Černín, the Habsburg imperial ambassador to Venice, it is currently the seat of the Ministry of Culture. Marek Toman has made the largest Baroque structure in Prague the protagonist of his novel, commenting upon the historical events that have passed it by over the centuries. Narrating its own story, the palace also describes the turning points in Czech history, from the day it had been built up until the present days. Over time, the palace has served as a picture gallery, a hospital, military barracks, a shelter for the poor, or office of the Reichsprotektor during the Second World War. In great depth, the palace discusses the death of Jan Masaryk: after the Communist putsch in 1948, the former foreign minister fell out of the window of his quarters on the third floor of the palace. Could it have been murder? The building also remembers Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s right-hand man in the Czech lands, assassinated in 1942.

Marek Toman has found a truly original voice for the retelling of modern Czech and Central European history: the testimony of a building that has been witness to many historical, military, political, and personal events.


Thanks to the truly original form through which The Praise of Opportunism manages to capture the passing of history, the novel bears comparison with the best works of current European fiction: Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, Hilary Mantel’s Tudor saga, or The Great Century by Swedish writer Jan Guillou.

Zdenko Pavelka, Právo

Click on the cover for the extract.

The Big News about the Dreadful Murder of Šimon Abeles

(Veliká novina o hrozném mordu Šimona Abelese)

Publisher: Argo, Praha 2014
ISBN 978-80-257-1181-1
451 pages

Rights sold: Polish, German

The novel takes place in two time levels. The first one, set in the late 17th century, is the story of Šimon Abeles, a 12-year-old Jewish boy, who dies after his decision to convert to Christianity. A politically motivated murder trial starts unfolding, accusing the father and fuelling an anti-Jewish atmosphere in the society. Thanks to the trial, Šimon becomes a martyr. This story is based on facts. The second storyline takes place in present times and is fictitious. An anthropologist dealing with the history of Šimon Abeles and searching for his remains in Teyn church in Prague suddenly finds himself in almost the same situation as the father of Šimon Abeles—he loses his own son, who has played a computer game based on Christian-Jewish hostility. Gradually the two stories merge. Both of them tell of distorted rights and manipulation of public opinion, as well as intolerance.

Undoubtedly, this work is of fine literary and historiographical quality.

Jiři Peňás, editor of the Lidové Noviny cultural section

My Golem (Můj Golem)

Publisher: Argo, Praha, 2009
Illustrations: Hana Puchova
ISBN 978-80-257-0219-2
163 pages

A legend from the late 16th century tells of Rabbi Löw, who shaped the Golem out of clay and animated him. This creature’s task was to rush to the besieged Jews of Prague to help in times of need. Many varieties of this old story exist. Toman deals with the matter in a surprising way. He portrays Golem from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy, who lives in the Jewish ghetto. This boy is friends with a Christian girl living just behind the wall of the ghetto. The book authentically describes Jewish life and the relationship between Jews and Christians in Renaissance Prague. Illustrated by Hana Puchová with elements of comics, the book is intended for teenagers as well as their parents.

The title has been published in Hungary in 2010.

In 2010 the book was nominated for the prestigious Czech Magnesia Litera Award, in 2011 it was included in the White Raven catalogue of notable titles deserving worldwide attention, selected by language specialists at the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany.

The Conquest of the Saaremaa Island (Dobytí ostrova Saaremaa)

Publisher: Baronet, Praha, 2007
Illustrations: Jan Ungrád
ISBN 978-80-7214-963-6
146 pages

This richly illustrated book for children and their parents tells a humorous story from the time of the Crusader conquest of Europe. The main hero of the adventure, Czech crusader Fabian of Pear, is a little clumsy and naïve, believing that he can come to an understanding with anyone. The author tells of his journey starting at a Czech castle and continuing through the Polish Malbork to the Estonian island of Saaremaa. There he finds his love for life, friends, and answers to many of his questions. The story is based on historical facts and local legends and is illustrated by the painter, scriptwriter and artist Jan Ungrád.

The title has been published in Estonia and Finland.