Born in 1963, Sylva Fischerová is one of the most formidable Czech writers of her generation. She is the author of ten collections of poems, two volumes of short stories, two novels and two children’s books. Some of her poetry books were published in the USA, her prose book Europe Is Like a Thonet Chair America Is Right Angle was nominated for the prestigious Magnesia Litera Award. Fischerová was born in Prague, but lived in Olomouc until the age of eighteen. She initially studied philosophy and physics at Charles University but eventually switched over to classical philology. She currently holds a position in the Department of Greek and Latin Studies at Charles University, Faculty of Arts. She specializes in Greek literature, philosophy, and religion. Her father Josef Ludvík Fischer was a philosopher whose work was banned under the communist regime.
A selection of titles
The World Astronomical Clock (Světový orloj)
Publisher: Druhé město, Brno, 2017
Rights sold: German
The new poetry collection by Sylva Fischerová is not a book for a single reading, and it is not just another “poet on the move” volume. It is the sum of the author’s life and lyrical experience, sort of a personal topography in which particular places appear as projections of history and its events. An important role is given to the people closest to the writer — especially to her father, philosopher J. L. Fischer, and to both of her sisters; we witness the father’s emigration to the Netherlands during the Second World War, and the emigration of her sister Viola, also a poet, after August 1968. The texts are packed with meaning, unusual images and original expressions, and the book as a whole flows in a distinctive, original rhythm. However, it is better to read it slowly, keep coming back to various passages and rethink the author’s words. Few recent collections of Czech poetry are worthy of this kind of attention.
BIZOM, or, Service and Mission (BIZOM aneb Služba a mise)
Publisher: Druhé město, Brno, 2016
An experimental novel with the features of an essay
Jiří Bizom, who’s just turned fifty years old, creates games – but neither board games nor computer games: his games are aimed at life, and you can play them in banal everyday situations. Bizom, the son of a Jew from Budapest, lives in present-day Prague, making his way as an employee in a grant foundation.
Bizom out of principle refuses to accept the pre-prepared codes and forced stereotypes which seemingly promise to clear up and enlighten your life. Consequently, he has no other option than to invent and play games – the stranger the better. People like Johan Huizinga, author of the book Homo ludens, or the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who invented the concept of speech games, serve as an inspiration to him, as does a yellowed piece of typewritten paper he finds by pure chance in a museum park…
Bizom is one of the most remarkable prose works to have been written in Czech lately.
Petr A. Bílek
Sylva Fischerová does not stop surprising me. Her last book is prose narrated by a middle-aged guy – let’s call him a Prague intellectual who feels at home in a café as well as in a pub. I must confess: When reading the book, I was rather astonished, but at the same time I had a lot of fun. Sylva Fischerová depicts a “man’s world” with such precision and plasticity that – and I’m slightly exaggerating here – a man would not have been capable of it.
Europe Is Like a Thonet Chair, America is Right Angle (Evropa je jako židle Thonet, Amerika je pravý úhel)
Publisher: Druhé město, Brno, 2013
A travelogue with the features of an essay, including poetic passages
The book was nominated for the Magnesia Litera, the most prestigious Czech literary award.
Rights sold: Polish
When a poet sets out on a journey to another continent, it can sometimes have unexpected consequences. For Sylva Fischerová the result was the book she wrote after returning from her poetry reading tour of the American East Coast and Midwest. The book offers some unusual and very personal insights into the similarities and differences between Europe and America as well as into the nature of writing itself.
During her stay in America, the author keeps her eyes and ears wide open. It is in her own way that she discovers the foreign country, its architecture, flowers and people. She compares the two continents in multiple ways, looking at their cultures as well as their spirits, as the title of the book suggests.
Sylva Fischerová’s work pretends to be a travelogue, but the reader should not expect obligatory notes from a journey. What is at stake here is a full-blown fiction, formally a very specific narrative based on fragmentariness, austerity and the alternation between prose and poetic rhythms. In general, the book is a ravishing reading experience: in Fischerová’s Europe is like a Thonet chair, America is right angle we have one of the fundamental works of 21th century Czech literature.
Julia and Hmyza (Júla a Hmýza)
Publisher: Baobab, Prague, 2006
Age: 5 – 11
A funny book about two girls having amazing adventures in a Prague suburb, thanks to their vivid imagination.
Would you like to meet some carnivorous mushrooms? Or the forms from a magnetic board that float in the air above your head? Have you ever heard of giraffe tonsilitis? Or how to bring to life a mermaid who lives on a concrete wall next to a wandering kidney? Do you know how to find Julia’s Land? Or, say, your land, if you have one? Well, join Julia and Hmyza. Maybe they will take you there… and maybe it won’t be that far away.
This book about the adventures of two little girls from a Prague suburb is full of wit and humor, inventiveness and lively dialogues. The author has an extraordinary grasp on language, and her little heroes’ dialogues are perfectly genuine, at once funny and serious. It is a book about the power of childrens’ fantasy.
These stories – which map the adventures of two little girls who live in a housing development – have the unique charm of immediacy that is missing in most children’s books being published these days. There is no message surpassing a child’s understanding and concern. It is a fascinating book which does not offer a moral but is truly about our childrens’ lives.
Radek Malý, poet and children’s books author