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Irena Dousková - english version
 
 

A master storyteller of attractive tales of human fates and relationships set in both past and present, writing very readable books mostly full of humour. She is a unique and distinctive author who has mastered the art of observation and characterisation; this mastery is seen to greatest effect in her typically apt ironic shortcuts and dialogues.
The works of Irena Dousková have been published in nine languages – English, German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Belarussian, Spanish (in Mexico) and Bosnian. Rights are sold to Croatia and Latvia.
Her loose trilogy following the life of Helena Součková – Hrdý Budžes, Oněgin byl Rusák and Darda has enjoyed the greatest popularity. All three books have been adapted for stage by the author, and all these productions are still running successfully at Czech theatres. For her starring role in Hrdý Budžes, which has now seen more than six hundred performances, Barbora Hrzánová has been awarded the highest Czech drama prize – the Thalie Award.
The first book to be translated was B. Proudew (Hrdý Budžes). It has been translated into English, German, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Belarussian, Spanish (in Mexico) and Bosnian.

Biography
Irena Dousková was born in 1964 to a family of actors in Příbram. Since 1976 she has lived in Prague, where she completed her secondary education at the Nad štolou Grammar School and graduated from the Charles University Faculty of Law, though she never entered the legal profession, instead taking various jobs usually associated in some way with journalism. Over the last few years she has been working freelance and focusing on her writing.

Bibliography:
Pražský zázrak – A Prague Miracle (co-authored, 1992)
Goldstein píše dceři – Goldstein Writes to his Daughter (1997, 2006)
Hrdý Budžes – B. Proudew (1998, 2002)
Někdo s nožem – Someone with a Knife (2000)
Doktor Kott přemítá – Doctor Kott Wonders (2002)
Čím se liší tato noc – What Makes This Night Different (2004)
Oněgin byl Rusák – Onegin was a Rusky (2006)
O bílých slonech – White Elephants (2008)
Bez Karkulky – Without the Riding Hood (2009)

Dramatizations:
B. Proudew (2003)
Oněgin was a Rusky (2008)

IN TRANSLATION
B. Proudew
The most succesful title by Irena Dousková, over 65.000 copies sold in the Czech Republic alone.
The story of this book is told by a young girl who is at once smart and naive. Helenka guides us through the first years of the “government” of the communist president Husák, describing comic as well as less amusing episodes and situations involving children and grown-ups in one town in the course of a year. The short episodes create a compact story which reveals both the small and greater tragedies of Helenka’s chil­dhood, all presented with a comforting forgiveness.
Summary from the English edition of the book (Pálava Publishing, 2016): Helena Součková, an eight-year-old schoolgirl in a small provincial town, deals not only with the uniquely dismal side of life in communist Czechoslovakia, but also with more than a few universal issues, like death, school dinners, guilt, obtuse teachers, betrayal, love, Jewishness, annoying little brothers, almost absent fathers, cruel classmates, bogus adults, eerie daydreams and nightmares that reflect the society around her. A child of her time, Helena nevertheless rises above it all with her special blend of grit, common sense and dark imaginings, which speak to us today with clarity and power. Helena has come to be a well-known archetype that many can identify with.
Hrdý Budžes is now a firm family favourite in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Central Europe. What has the English-speaking world been missing out on?
More about the book:
An extraordinarily successful, frequently reprinted bestseller. Often repeated on Czech television in its stage adaptation, Hrdý Budžes has come to be one of the most famous Czech prose works published since the Velvet Revolution. In the Czech Republic alone more than 65,000 copies have been sold. The book has also been published in translation in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Belarus, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From the author's preface in the English edition of the book: „When I started my first year at primary school in Příbram, a district town about fifty kilometres from Prague, in September 1970, my compulsory school attendance began at the same time as that dismal period known as normalization, a time when character was constantly being drained, dignity lost, allegiances turned and lives (particularly professional lives) ruined. (…) That is more or less the background against which the story of my young hero, Helena Součková, is set. It is not a political satire or a panoramic survey of the history of the last century's latter half, but a reflection of all that in our little everyday lives. Like it or not, children, with all their joys and troubles, are influenced and affected by the behaviour of adults, whom they can hardly be expected to fully understand. But then at the same time, they often manage to perceive and identify what is going on around them far more accurately and in focus than the grown-ups around them might guess or would ever be willing to admit.“
Publisher: Hynek 1998, Petrov 2002
ISBN: 80–7227–132–6
168 pp.
Foreign editions: Colibri, Bulgaria, 2005; DTV, Germany, 2006; Kalligram, Hungary, 2006; Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo, Poland, 2007; Didakta, Slovenia, 2009; Lohvinau, Belarus, 2013; Književni klub Brčko distrikt BiH, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2015; Komora, Ukraine, 2015
Rights sold to: Pálava Publishing, Czech Republic (in English), 2016; Hena Com, Croatia
In 2006, Irena Dousková published a free continuation of B. Proudew under the title Onegin was a Rusky / Oněgin byl Rusák and another sequel in 2011 (Darda / Darda). Both these books became bestsellers immediately after publishing.

Onegin was a Rusky
Onegin was a Rusky was translated into Hungarian, Polish and Slovenian.
Novel, over 30.000 copies sold in the Czech Republic alone.
This book is a free continuation of B. Proudew, a bestseller which has met with extraordinary success and been through many reprints. In part in thanks to its adaptation for the theatre (shown repeatedly on television), B. Proudew has become one of the best known works of Czech prose to be produced since 1989. Onegin was a Rusky, too, is a tale close to the heart of anyone who can think back to the odd, grey world of Husák's Norma­lization; it is also sure to engage the interest of those who know these twilight years at second-hand only.
In spite of the obstacles placed in her way by the authorities, Helena Součková has succeeded in getting to grammar school. And although the cards fate deals her are difficult to play, she battles gamely to reach an understanding of her inner world and the world of hypocrisy around her.
Like B. Proudew, Onegin was a Rusky is a highly personal tale replete with autobiographical reference and a tragi-comic mosaic of a time which the passing years have done little to deprive of its montrosity.
The degenerate, corrupt shambles which was the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic is presented here in all its wretched nakedness, and that this is shown seemingly by the way makes it all the more powerful. Quite simply, Irena Dousková has again succeeded in writing a wonderful novel which is bound to captivate a very wide readership.

Theatre adaptation: Divadlo v Dlouhé, 2008, audio book released in 2009 by Supraphon
Publisher: Druhé město 2006
ISBN: 80–7227–244–6
260 pp.
Foreign editions: Hungarian (Kalligram, 2009), Polish (Mozaika, 2010), Slovenian (Didakta, 2010)

Goldstein Writes to his Daughter / Goldstein píše dceři
Novel in letters. A book of subtle epistles sent from Israel by an ageing film director, the emigrant Goldstein, to his daughter in Prague. The letters gradually shed light on the course of Goldstein´s life as well as the inconsistencies in his relationship with his daughter. This relationship has been established far too late; the reader compares his idealised imaginations with the reality of their actual and often conflicting encounters. This tragicomic story of love and self-love takes place in the recent past –in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Publisher: Melantrich 1997, Druhé město 2006
Foreign editions: Spanish (Luzam, Mexico, 2014)
Rights sold to: Luzam, Mexico

verses: Half in the air

verses: Half in the air

The second stand-alone collection of Irena Dousková is very powerful.
It offers condensed melancholy, modest reflections, an exciting language
search in the loophole of personal and collective memory as well as
precisely dosages rate of rational and intuitive writing:
Draft everywhere
He went for a pint
The dogs are barking
Spinster goes on

Illustrations: Karolína Kotrbová
Graphic design: Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2016
ISBN: 978–80–7227–376–8

book: Bear Dance

book: Bear Dance

Irena Dousková has written her best novel yet about the last few months in the life of the enfant terrible of Czech literature, Jaroslav Hašek. In 1922 the ailing Hašek retired to Lipnice. The joker and hoaxer of old, with his ability to enjoy himself regally and write trenchantly, was still dormant within him, but the Lipnice community was now the last butt of his jokes. He was still writing smutty verse and “scandalous” drama for the local hams, but on sleepless nights his face bore the expression of a frightened child.

Cover: Igor Malijevský
Photo: Karolína Kotrbová
Graphic design: Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2014
ISBN: 978–80–7227–346–1
296 pp.

book: Darda

book: Darda

Novel, over 10.000 copies sold.
Now forty-three, Helena Součková lives in the Žizkov district of Prague. When adversity strikes, she is making her living as an actress and bringing up two teenagers. Irena Dousková’s latest work Darda is a loose continuation of the highly successful autobiographical novels B. Proudew / Hrdý Budžes (1998) and Onegin was a Rusky / Oněgin byl Rusák (2006). This time we find the female protagonist/na­rrator in the immediate present, facing up to the break-up of her twenty-year marriage to Jindřich Darda and contending with grave illness. In defiance of these miseries Helena does what she can to continue a normal life. She remains the Helena we know, unflinchingly honest and with her own brand of humour – which is why it is such an enriching experience to read her story. Theatre adaptation: Divadlo Na Jezerce (2012) and audio book released by Supraphon (2012).

Cover: Lucie Lomová
Photo and illustrations: Karolína Kotrbová
Graphic design: Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2011
ISBN: 978–80–7227–314–0
196 pp.

verses: Without the Riding Hood

verses: Without the Riding Hood

Regardless of the poem I would not enter the thirteenth chamber, i.e. the proverbial skeleton-filled closet, it would seem that is where Irena Dousková wrote the collection Without the Riding Hood. Although the poems are not lacking in lighter-hearted wit, they also quiver with constant anxiety over the absurd and cruel world into which we are thrust unasked, and from which we are eventually thrown out again – perhaps only God knows why and where. And this anxiety is not just self-absorbed, but also compassionate: I always come back to point zero / Point zero / is minus six million.
But Dousková is a poet of hope: Although everything is often seemingly damned, if not actually damned, I shall still not stop praying.
Milan Ohnisko

Illustrations: Lucie Lomová using an archive picture by an unknown artist
Graphic design: Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2009
ISBN: 978–80–7227–287–7
Samples

book: White Elephants

book: White Elephants

A prose work with a subtly balladic tone that evokes summer air billowing over baking asphalt. The story takes place during the 1970s in a village near Beroun. In short interconnected sections a famous children's counting rhyme is played out over a single week: Joy, sorrow, love, marriage, fable, cradle, sable, death.

Cover and illustrations: Lucie Lomová.
Publisher: Druhé město, 2008
Graphic design: Lucie Lomová, Bedřich Vémola (type)
ISBN 978–80–7227–276–1

book: Goldstein Writes to his Daughter

book: Goldstein Writes to his Daughter

New edition published by Petrov with cover and illustrations by Lucie Lomová.

Graphic design by Lucie Lomová and Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2006
ISBN 80–7227–253–5
166 pp.

book: Onegin was a Rusky

book: Onegin was a Rusky

This book follows on loosely from B. Proudew. Again we meet the chief protagonist Helena Součková, now in her final year at grammar school. Like B. Proudew, this work portrays the strangely ash-grey days of Husák's norma­lization period. It is both an autobiographical personal tale and a tragicomic mosaic of the era, which has lost none of its monstrosity with the passage of time. The degenerate, corrupt Communist Absurdistan of Czechoslovakia emerges here in all its poverty and nakedness (seemingly just by the way, but all the more convincingly as a result).

Cover: Lucie Lomová
Graphic design: Bedřich Vémola
Publisher: Druhé město, 2006
ISBN 80–7227–244–6
Pb. 260

book: What Makes This Night Different

book: What Makes This Night Different

The collection of short stories entitled What Makes This Night Different consists of ten ballad-like tales. Although they take place within an unusually broad timeframe, from the dawn of our era to the 1970s, they are systematically conceived as an integral unit. The cover was designed by Lucie Lomová.
The keystone to this ten-story collection is the introductory quote from Zeyer's Jan Maria Plojhar: „I know her: she isn't bad, but moderately good people can be very tough.“

Year published: 2004
Number of pages: 108
ISBN 80–7227–188–1

book: B. Proudew

book: B. Proudew

Second edition, published by Petrov, cover by Lucie Lomová. In the same year the book was adapted for stage and put on at Příbram Theatre, with Barbora Hrzánová in the leading role.

Year published: 2002
Number of pages: 168
Second edition, first at Petrov
ISBN 80–7227–132–6

book: Doktor Kott Wonders

book: Doktor Kott Wonders

This book of short stories about human relations and their imperfections consists of twelve separate texts, reminiscent in some ways of an annual almanac, based primarily on the subjects of partnership, marriage and the family. The first book by Irena Dousková published by Petrov.

Cover illustration: Ivana Lomová
Year published: 2002
Number of pages: 174
ISBN 80–7227–122–9

book: Someone with a Knife

book: Someone with a Knife

The story of a young woman in an outwardly respectable marriage who goes through a profound crisis. She describes her life in diary entries not dissimilar to those of a castaway on a desert island. „Hausfrau blues“ or, as somebody once described this book, a little emotional horror story.

Hynek, 2000
ISBN: 80–86202–71–2

verses: A Prague Miracle

verses: A Prague Miracle

A collection of poems published jointly with L. Lomová, J. Reinisch and P. Ulrych.

Publishers: Pražská imaginace, March 1992
ISBN 80–7110–066–8
Illustrations: Lucie Lomová

stage play: B. Proudew

stage play: B. Proudew

A stage adaptation of B. Proudew based on the book of that name was presented at the Antonín Dvořák Theatre in Příbram in 2003. The text was adapted for stage by the author, with Bára Hrzánová in the leading role. Directed by Jiří Schmied.
Bára Hrzánová has received the Thálie award for her excellent performance. Audiences liked the production so much that it is being staged all over the country to this day and the Divadlo bez zábradlí theatre in Prague has also included it in its repertoire. The run of performances now exceeds three hundred.

stage play: Onegin was a Rusky

stage play: Onegin was a Rusky

In collaboration with director Jan Borna, Irena Dousková dramatized Onegin was a Rusky in 2007. The premiere was staged at the Divadlo v Dlouhé theatre on 19th January 2008. In contrast to the small-scale conception of B. Proudew (for three actors), practically the entire Divadlo v Dlouhé ensemble took part in the production of Onegin. The early eighties atmosphere is evoked amongst other things by a number of songs from the period, which the V Dlouhé actors and musicians performed with their own special enthusiasm and proficiency.
Adaptation of the book by Irena Dousková Onegin was a Rusky for stage at the Divadlo v Dlouhé theatre.

Collaboration on the script: Jan Borna

stage play: Darda

stage play: Darda

A stage adaptation of Darda based on the book of that name was presented at the Theatre Na Jizerce in 2012. The text was adapted for stage by the author, with Bára Hrzánová in the leading role. Directed by Arnošt Goldflam.