Irena Dousková’s new collection of short stories is among the titles nominated for this year’s Magnesia Litera awards in the prose category. In the book, we examine the turning points in the lives of ordinary people embedded in different historical events. Different people at different times, with different points of view and different lives. However, they all have something in common…
The end is good, everything is good… Or not
Irena Douskova: The ending is good. Druhé město, Brno, 2021, 148 p.
For the attention of the general public Irena Douskova she had her first novel Budzes proud (1998). The audience acquired a well-conceived story about little Helen thanks to the linguistic sharpness and the contrast of the naive worldview of a small child with the normalization landscape of Czechoslovakia, in which the girl grew up. Dousková then wrote two sequels to Helen’s life: Onegin was a Russian (2006) one Darda (2011), in which the heroine gradually matures. Budzes proud Among other things, the theatrical adaptation of the A. Dvořák Theater in Příbram contributed to fame. But perhaps best crafted in both form and story is the author’s end-of-life novel. Jaroslav Hasek bear dance (2014). He works very well on the principle of literary collage and, using all kinds of literary forms, from classical narration to letters and from reportage to the play, tells the story of a dying actor. The author’s last published novel is then coffins (2018). The book, in the style of a travel mania beat, tells the story of 18-year-old Rosa, who sets off in search of the love of her life. In addition to these novels, however, Dousková is also the author of several collections of short stories and poetry, which most readers have overlooked until now.
The ending is good (2021) is simply called a “collection of people”. Nine stories, each of which takes place at a different time and deals with characters of different ages and social categories, form a very holistic and unique vision of people’s lives, relationships and above all emotions influenced by the social atmosphere and Politics. Each of the stories takes place in a specific time (invasion of Russian troops in 1968, cowardly 1990s, death of Václav Havel, coronavirus pandemic). However, at the heart of the individual stories, there is not the story, but the man and his emotions, his relationships and his problems, which over time change thematically, but in fact remain the same.
As in all his previous books, Dousková shows considerable talent for characterizing individual characters. The author is able to write through the eyes of both a little boy and a dying old woman in her forties, without readers perceiving uncertainty in the way they are told. . In the introductory story Rybicka We find ourselves with nine-year-old Emil in the summer of 1968. The boy is locked up in a hospital for a long time, he receives hated injections from morning to night, and the nurse’s annoying socialist “grandmothers” do all his possible remains very uncomfortable. The short story opens the whole book on a stinky to slimy hospital environment. “And it stinks here. Unfortunately, literally. (p. 7) Emil, in his fight over a knife that accidentally fell into his toilet bowl, must delve into his deepest depths. But the time in which he lives without realizing it is just as “stinky”. This well-meaning metaphor then permeates all the other texts in the collection and stinks and “rinse in it” becomes one of the important linking motifs.
In history For all time in the still harsh socialism, villager Milada struggles with endless cleansing. “No matter how well she has done, her work. On the contrary, she has grown under his hands, like the heads of a fairy-tale sleigh.” (P. 32) The old woman is locked up in her prison” stinky “self-created, in which she also throws her husband Vojta. Although neither husband visibly feels the effects of the diet (except for the eggs which cannot be bought in the store), the old woman turns their home into an isolated world full of greed and frustration, akin to the way little Emil was forced to live in the opening text. The heroine of the story Said brother compared to the previous two, it is already enjoying a fast 90th race. Instead of feeling independent, however, she is crippled by her newly acquired free spirit and doesn’t know where to go in life. Similar feelings of servitude, commitment or ruin permeate the lives and relationships of the other protagonists of the collection in various variations (in the stories already mentioned we can see it in Emil’s non-existent relationship with his mother, in Milady’s marriage with Vojta or in the little story of the heroine Said brother with Uncle Max).
Although each of the characters comes from a different social bubble and from a different era, all the stories flow together very skillfully and the reader doesn’t feel any sense of ecstasy when going from one text to another. Dousková intertwined the entire collection with wandering motifs, which jump from one story to the next and thus connect them in a non-violent way (for example, a much-loved West German toy car in the short story Rybicka throw in the text Said brother another child without sorrow in the river). As already indicated, although the historical events described affect the characters in their social environment and their position and affect their specific situation, the author puts personal relationships and emotions in the foreground. Whether it’s the son-mother relationship as in the texts Rybicka, The ending is goodor about relationships with a life partner as in the texts For all time or Bistro Bor a person’s relationship to themselves.
Considering the time of the book’s creation, it is also important to emphasize the theme of isolation, which emanates directly from the texts and calls for attention. Each of the characters relates to the surrounding world in one way or another, but at the same time stands out from it for various reasons. Whether it is Miladin’s need to shut himself up in a life that is already quite reclusive in the village, or Vladimir in a new Everyone goes therewho would like to go to Havel’s funeral in Prague, but at the same time doesn’t want to “go with the flow”. In all the texts, the internal frustration of the feeling of isolation is literally tangible, but at the same time Dousková adds an element of hope, without which the whole book would only repeat depressively that we have lived for centuries in a stinking world without future. “Koda thought he wanted peace, one day let him go. They’ll have to. And that’s like anything, let’s all go someday, even though now it sucks and he’s getting his ass kicked. The fascists let go, and that was scary, let the communists go.’Rybicka, p. 23) This hope doesn’t overwhelm feelings of loneliness, but it does give the characters and readers at least a sense that “it will get better.” Or will it not?
The rooster of the story made the cover of the collection Landscape with black forest flees certain death by strangulation. All of the author’s characters are equally “strangled” in their lives, and although the stories are told with foresight and unprecedented irony, the reader will not read the book with a “good ending, all is well” feeling. but instead finds himself somewhere at a turbulent crossroads.
© Alice Skrlantova