Review of the novel The Stillness of Amália by Kateřina Rudčenková

Almost ten years after the publication of her last collection of poems, Walking on the Dunes, for which she received Magnesia Litera, Kateřina Rudčenková returns with a 150-page short story, Amália’s Immobility. Once again she is nominated for the same award, this time in the Litera category for prose.

At the same time, Rudčenková returns to the themes that linked the stories of the collection Nights, Nights of 18 years: the impossibility of facing the traumas of childhood, the inability to anchor oneself in a lasting relationship. Amalia’s stillness, however, exacerbates these motifs to breaking point – to some it may therefore seem like a dark and poetic pearl, to others it may seem like a portrait of a woman who could be a former idol of a generation of “snowflakes”.

Amálie, 35, spends her days lying and contemplating. He doesn’t think much about what’s wrong with the world or with himself; at the heart of the restlessness is the feeling that she does not fit in with the world, that the interaction with it does not satisfy her, that she is not happy enough.

In time, he recovers, breaks up with his dull, boring friend, turns on a few men, but finds there are serious attitude flaws beneath the seductively smelly body. This is how Amálie embarks on travels, from trips to the lakes of Pošumaví to stays in Japan. She trades yoga for Zen, but that doesn’t satisfy her either. And the years go by. Amálie is in a vicious circle.

The stories are gradually supplemented by the contours of the sorrowful mother and father, who left the family and then died suddenly. It seemed to illuminate the repertoire of trauma and pain that caused Amalia’s indecisiveness. And we also follow her treatment, during which she ends up diversifying her journey with deep psychotherapy and the influence of the German Clemense Kuby, who claims that it is enough to say convincingly: I want to be healthy.

Amálie finds balance or reconciliation in her last mare apartment, where she enjoys “looking at the gardens and not having to work there, she feels like a princess whose lands are managed by her subjects”. Here he lives in a childless relationship with the last of his lovers and looks out the window. Shaman Jaroslav Dušek does not pass under him, but his presence would not surprise him.

What can you do there? We can admire the language and style which, unlike the flat originality of Czech bestsellers, is richly coloured, shaded and nuanced. We can admire the precision of the probe into the soul of a character overwhelmed by traumas that he cannot manage to get rid of. We can enhance the experience by listening to the songs which are listed in the titles of many chapters and clearly emotionally match the lyrics.

We can speculate on the relationship between Truth and Poetry, that is to say what is now fashionably called autofiction, especially when the story invites us to do so at the end, because the narrated episode is immediately denied. : “The author of this text sometimes deliberately lied to you about what.” And one can try to include Amália in the pantheon of strange women who have presented the novels of Anna Bolavá, Lucie Faulerová and Zuzana Brabcová in recent years.

But we can also feel like we’re reading an unnecessarily long story about an unbearably self-centered being. The heroine of Zuzana Brabcová’s novel Ceilings crumbled so much under the weight of trauma that she didn’t have a chance to break out of the circle of lunatic asylum, drug addiction and alcohol cravings; but he had to pay bills for it all.

However, Amalia is not hampered by financial problems. He can fly to Japan whenever he wants. And she is not bothered by the other problems of the world, she perceives everything only through her “I”. For her, the world is the “divine primordial source of all life”, which should repair her broken matrix.

Cover of the short story The Immobility of Amália. | Photo: Book Club

All the roles that the world forces us to accept are only constraining concepts for her. The other characters only have meaning for the heroine in the way she uses them to take care of herself; but that she would respect their own “I”, not even by chance.

Therefore, if Amália’s cultivated lyrical account of the psychological difficulties of searching for herself does not take us to heart, we are only reading the extended story of a self-absorbed morbid being whose circling motion has us also trained.

In the end, we may wonder how ironic or gross in dark humor and going nowhere is Amalia’s quest for balance using sponges combined with the mystique of spiritual enlightenment. . We will postpone the book with the relief of being able to return to a world that has gardens other than Zen.


Kateřina Rudčenková: the immobility of Amália
Publishing house Knižní klub 2021, 160 pages, 259 crowns.

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