At the beginning of the story, Amálie is lying in an old summer apartment and has no reason to get up. As readers, we accompany her for the next seven years, when the heroine leaves the scene of family trauma and travels to many places, including her beloved Japan. And yet, in the end, even under the weight of the name, one has to wonder how much movement actually took place.
Movement that is not visible
Kateřina Rudčenkova: Amalia’s Stillness. EM / Knižní club, Prague, 2021, 160 p.
Poet, playwright and novelist Kateřina Rudčenkova (b. 1976) received the Magnesia Litera Prize for her collection of poetry in 2014 Walk on the dunes. This year, his novel was nominated in the prose category. Amalia’s Stillness, which won the Reflex Literary Prize last fall. However, the nomination for Magnesia Litera is not the only thing that these two Rudčenková titles have in common – they are also united by the movement of name and text, or rather the lack thereof.
The initial situation of the story represents a moment of stagnation shortly after the main heroine, a woman between thirty and forty, learned of the death of her father. He left the family during Amália’s childhood, and the girl’s lack of communication evoked feelings of guilt, the taste of which lasted into adulthood. Amálie herself seeks a working partnership and perhaps unsatisfied motherhood, but her visions usually fail in the face of possible quid pro quos. The heroine therefore embarks on a sort of deconstruction of her relationships and of herself. Although the moment of the father’s death appears to be the defining moment at first, therapist Amálie searches for points about an unbalanced relationship with a controlling and unempathetic mother.
It is as if she is connected to Amália through an apartment in Letna, where family history was written and with which her mother has traumatic experiences, in light of which any potential problem or uncertainty for Amália loses weight: . (p. 102) And although the heroine inhabits the apartment with her belongings and memories, the place seems to continue to paralyze her. With the move to new accommodation, Amálie seems to change her destiny, but the dysfunctional relationship maintained for five years will not save her. And though he journeys with determination to the republic and the coveted Japan, the real change still doesn’t seem to happen and the feeling of unanchoring lingers. The impression of being trampled on the spot is reinforced by the division of the text into short chapters, which sometimes act as a series of loosely intertwined episodes with recurring motifs, where the heroine moves from her description of daily tasks to her own thoughts and memories. . The author conveys Amália’s feelings with the help of paintings constructed with appropriate poetic comparisons, but at the same time with sympathetic economy. She mixes them with a description of the events experienced by the protagonist during the seven years studied, and less often of those for which she returns against the grain, most often when balancing relations within the family.
The plot of the story is then, at least in the first part of the book, made up of men from the life of Amália, in which the heroine projects her ideas on the future. Through a series of communication and other failures, he reverts from hopes of motherhood to his own family relationships, stereotypes that are embedded under the skin, and curses passed down from generation to generation. At the same time, Amálie is independent, has no problem with work, she can afford to travel, but she still doesn’t fit into the world around her. As she experiences patience and becomes more and more focused on herself, she begins to wonder under what circumstances Amalie really feels visible. Sometimes it seems that only strange eyes have the potential to bring him to life and allow him to become part of the reality around him.
The invisibility, which seems to bring the heroine to the edge of nothingness, is also shown during her stay in Japan in the last part of the book, when Amálie embarks on an adventure in which the narrator writes down her text, but she immediately throws a little that “the author of this text has sometimes deliberately deceived you about what to do” (p. 143). This completely fits the ironic position of the whole story, which, however, has so far taken place in the fictional world. The tension drops, Amálie returns to her own (not family) apartment and is in fact still where she was. The movement was apparently complete, both in the outer world and in its inner landscape. Although nothing seems to change, there is a sort of denouement, perhaps just as Amálie looks outside the lighted windows of her apartment and imagines herself becoming a stranger to herself.
From the perspective of readers’ expectations, the final story arc may not seem expansive or impressive enough, and it’s certainly worth considering if Amália’s story-story isn’t surprising in any way. But thanks to the literary abilities of Kateřina Rudčenková, you can still enjoy it. Especially if you like similar heroines of Czech prose of recent years, disillusioned on the threshold of the new millennium, let them come out of the pen Lucie Faulerova, Tereza Semotamovaor maybe Pavla Horakova. Rudčenková enriches their pleiads and always does so with the ability to express poetic expression and, using irony (especially self-reflexive), many musical, cinematic or literary references.
© Kamila Drahoňovská