Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

by: Vitezslav Nezval

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Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders by Vitezslav Nezval, translated by David Short / ISBN 9788086264196 / This edition includes Kamil Lhotak's original illustrations / paperback with flaps from Twisted Spoon Press

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"Somewhere between the existential fables of Franz Kafka and the macabre animations of Jan Svankmajer lies Vitezslav Nezval. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders reminded me of a hyperactive Hammer Horror film as directed by Luis Bunuel."--Absinthe Literary Review

"The book is a tour de force in that Nezval adopts the genre of the pulp novel for his own arch purposes." -- John Taylor, The Antioch Review

Written in 1935 at the height of Czech Surrealism but not published until 1945, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a bizarre erotic fantasy of a young girl's maturation into womanhood on the night of her first menstruation. Referencing Matthew Lewis's The Monk, Marquis de Sade's Justine, K. H. Macha's May, F. W. Murnau's film Nosferatu, Nezval employs the language of the pulp serial novel to fashion a lyrical, menacing dream of sexual awakening involving a vampire with an insatiable appetite for chicken blood, changelings, lecherous priests, a malicious grandmother desiring her lost youth.

In his Foreword Nezval states: "I wrote this novel out of a love of the mystique in those ancient tales, superstitions and romances, printed in Gothic script, which used to flit before my eyes and declined to convey to me their content." Part fairy tale, part Gothic horror, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a meditation on youth and age, sexuality and death, an androgynous merging of brother with sister, an exploration of the grotesque with the shifting registers of language, mood, and genre that were a hallmark of the Czech avant-garde. The 1970 film version is considered one of the outstanding achievements of Czech new-wave cinema.

Vitezslav Nezval (1900-1958) was perhaps the most prolific writer in Prague during the 1920s and 30s. An original member of the avant-garde group of artists Devetsil (Nine Forces), he was a founding figure of the Poetist movement. His output consists of a number of poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays, and translations. His best work is from the interwar period. Along with Karel Teige, Jindrich Styrsky, and Toyen, Nezval frequently traveled to Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with Andre Breton and Paul Eluard, he was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia in 1934 (the first such group outside of France), serving as editor of the group's journal Surrealismus.