By Jachym Topol
Translated by Alex Zucker
Published by Portobello Books
‘The devil had his workshop here in Belarus. The deepest graves are in Belarus. But nobody knows about them’
A young boy grows up in Terezín – an infamous fortress town with a sinister past. Together with his friends he plays happily in this former Nazi prison, scouting the tunnels for fragments of history under the careful eye of one of its survivors, Uncle Lebo, until one day there is an accident, and he is forced to leave.
Returning to Terezín many years later, he joins Lebo’s campaign to preserve the town, but before long the authorities impose a brutal crack-down, chaos ensues, and the narrator finds himself fleeing to Belarus, where fresh horrors drive him ever closer to the evils he had hoped to escape.
Bold, brilliant and blackly comic, The Devil’s Workshop paints a deeply troubling portrait of two countries dealing with their ghosts and asks: at what point do we consign the past to history?
Jachym Topol is the leading Czech author of his generation. Famous in his youth as an underground poet and songwriter, since the Velvet Revolution he has written the books that have most successfully and imaginatively captured the dislocation brought about by the fall of communism. His novels include Gargling with Tar, which was published by Portobello in 2011, The Devil’s Workshop (Portobello 2013) and Nightworks (Portobello 2014).
Alex Zucker’s translation of Jáchym Topol’s latest novel, is out next month from Portobello Books. Zucker currently works out of his third-floor apartment in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, NY.