Aviaries

by: Zuzana Brabcova

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Aviaries by Zuzana Brabcová, translated by Tereza Novicka / ISBN 9788086264516 / paperback with flaps from Twisted Spoon Press (Czech)

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"Composed like a twenty-first century flashback to Nikolai Gogol’s 'Diary of a Madman,' Zuzana Brabcová’s excellent, final novel Aviaries is a surrealist collage of memories, anxieties, and fantasies."--Rain Taxi

Aviaries is a novella composed of random diary entries, vignettes, dreams, observations, interior monologues, meditations, short anecdotes, newspaper headlines, and excerpts from poetry and prose, central among which is a passage from C.G. Jung's essay on the Kore. All these elements meld together in a collapse of time to create, similar to the work of Unica Zürn and Leonora Carrington, a phantasmagoria of the life of a woman navigating a city indifferent to those living on the margins. Interactions with other residents of Prague’s Smíchov district, characters who might be figments of her imagination, and the other women in her life – infirm mother, artsy sister, absent, dumpster-diving daughter – have reached a point where fantasy and reality have seamlessly merged. The death of Václav Havel in 2011 provides the opening, and from there the prose throbs in a kaleidoscope of contemporary news reports, flights of hallucination, wordplay, and metaphoric association to testify to what it is like to be alone and lost and indigent in a world that has stopped making sense. It is a brutal vision of present-day Prague where life has become a morass of the bizarre and the grotesque.

Brabcová's final book before her unexpected death, Aviaries received the Josef Škvorecký Award in 2016 for best prose of the year and was shortlisted for the Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award in 2017.

Zuzana Brabcová (1959-2015) was born in Prague. After graduating high school she was denied by the communist regime the opportunity to study at university, so she worked as a librarian, hospital attendant, and as a cleaning lady for six years. After the regime fell in 1989, her first book, Far from the Tree, which had come out in samizdat abroad was officially published and received the very first Jiří Orten Prize. Her novel Ceilings won a Magnesia Litera Award for Prose Book of the Year in 2013, and she followed this with Aviaries in 2016, completed just before her sudden death.