Roman Ráž

Roman RážNovelist, author of theater and radio plays and film screenwriter Roman Ráž was born in 1935. The Praguer graduated in art history and aesthetics in Brno, later in film studies and dramaturgy in Prague. He worked for radio and television. In addition to penning 25 novels, he also scripted two screenplays and 15 radio dramas. Some of his works were published in translation into German and Romanian. In the 1960s Ráž was well known far beyond the borders of Czechoslovakia. After crushing the Prague Spring uprising in 1968, the communist authorities suppressed his work for years.

The author recently released the first two installments in an epoch novel trilogy covering the 20th century. The books released so far deal with World War I and II respectively, and the final volume—scheduled for a 2018 release—will portray the communist era.

In 2015 Ráž was nominated for the State Prize for Literature.
 


 

A selection of titles


Click on the cover for the extract.

Lázeňské dobrodružství (Adventures at a Spa)

Publisher: Akropolis, Praha 2014
ISBN 978-80-7304-171-7
332 pages

Roman Ráž tells a true story, set in the historical upheaval of World War I. It is the story of his grandmother Marie, a Viennese Czech who leaves Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century to live with well-situated restaurant owner Rudolf Klánský in an emerging Moravian spa town. Was it love? Cold from the outset, the marriage becomes increasingly fractured as each year passes in spite of the two daughters they conceive. Then the war breaks out. With force, war changes the people—their relationships, their fates: Rudolf is compelled to serve in the army, fighting for the preservation of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. His absence leaves Marie to run the family hotel and restaurant on her own. The separation leads to an ever widening divide between the pair. Even Rudolf’s return cannot bridge this chasm; they become disloyal, and, eventually, unfaithful to one another.

Ráž adopts a neutral perspective in his portrayal of World War I: he stays impartial and varies the point of view to build an atmospheric portrait of the era. Chapter by chapter, he alternates between memoirs of the day-to-day life of his grandmother, fictionalized but historically accurate reports from the front lines, and the constructed diary entries of the couple’s two daughters. Through the eyes of these characters, readers experience the course of World War I from the onset through the disintegration of the multiethnic state of Austria-Hungary, as well as the turmoil of the immediate postwar period.

Lázeňské naděje (Spa Hopes)

Publisher: Akropolis, Praha 2014
ISBN 978-80-7304-183-0
431 pages

The second part of this epoch novel focuses on World War II. The author describes the fate of his grandmother’s family between 1926 and 1946. The lives of the children, as well as grandchildren, of Marie Klanska are dramatically changed by the war. Ráž explores the strained relationship between the Czechs and the Germans, while steering clear of painting a black and white picture. He allows a Sudeten German woman to report the horrors of displacement and he does not hide the love between his Moravian cousin and a young man from the Hitler Youth. Ráž portrays the epoch free from any partiality, with a proven mixture of memories, newspaper reports, letters and diary entries.


 

Rážs writing is full-bodied and mighty, and, simultaneously, pointed and soulful.

In his portrait of World War II Ráž refutes the comfortable division into killers and victims, as well as rejecting collective guilt.

Radim Kopáč, literary critic

faust

Faust umírá dvakrát (Faust Dies Twice)

Publisher: Akropolis, Praha, 2016
ISBN: 978-80-7304-191-5
194 pages

 

A journalist comes to visit an elderly man, who seems to be a retired army general, in the hope of getting information about a certain politician: years ago, the man, known as Brother Juanito, had gained tremendous popularity in a South American country due to his revolutionary beliefs. He was expected to win the presidential elections and introduce the land reform. Instead, the beloved leader was assassinated. The journalist is planning on writing Juanito’s biography, and starts delving in his past, hoping to get valuable information out of the general.

Once the journalist reveals the general’s long-kept secret, the talk turns into a tense duel, all the while discussing various political and philosophical issues.

Can a man destined for stellar political career succeed without making compromises with his conscience? Are politicians merely media figureheads, controlled by people pulling strings from the backstage? Can a revolution really change anything, or does it only help the bad guys who seize power by delivering empty phrases and false promises? Ráž’s story focuses on an individual’s responsibility amidst social chaos and erosion of traditional values. The book is both a political thriller about the individual’s association with power and a psychological novel exploring a truly remarkable life.

The book was originally written as a radio drama, broadcasted in Canada, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland. Ráž had later turned it into a novel published in 2003, and reprinted in 2016.
The book has been published in Romania in 2014.