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The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová: A Biographical Collage

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  45 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Artistic, rebellious, and unapologetically intelligent, Božena Němcová defied every convention for a woman in mid-nineteenth-century Bohemia: she was active in nationalist politics, she smoked cigars, she took a series of lovers, and she laid bare her ideas and emotions in her letters and stories. The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová is a biographical collage of found texts, ...more
Paperback, First, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Rose Metal Press
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Melanie Page
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My full review is now up at Grab the Lapels! Here's an excerpt:

The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová: A Biographical Collage is organized beautifully and helpfully. In “Introduction: This Is Not a Biography,” Parker Ervick explains her obsession with Božena Němcová, a Czech fairy tale writer from the 1840s who influenced Kafka. Parker Ervick began visiting Prague in 2003 and has been back many times, seeking not only to find all things Němcová, but her extended family. Due to political and historica
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read all of Parker's books, and this one is my absolute favorite. Not only does Parker capture what makes Němcová's story so fascinating, she also shares with readers the very personal and moving story of her marriage and divorce. I'll be honest, I was intrigued by Němcová's story, but it was Parker's own story that made the book unputdownable. So much so that I'd love to see her write an expanded version of her memoir. I believe anyone who has been in a relationship that has failed (and ha ...more
I love her!
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a work of art in multiple ways. A beautifully unique exploration of identity, self, and a search for who the mysterious "mother of Czech prose" really was. The mosaic style of the book stunningly captures the splatter of information available about a woman who readily and consistently defies explanation. In an age where information is typically at our behest, this book reminds me that there are still mysteries to be solved, but also that not finding the answers can lead to incredibl ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this gorgeous book about 19th century Czech novelist Bozena Nemcova -- a biographical collage assembled of excerpts from Nemcova's own writing (fairy tales, a novel, and her letters) and excerpts of essays and books about her, plus Kelcey Parker Ervick's visual collages of postcards, photographs and found images. I hadn't heard of Nemcova before reading this book, didn't know of her powerful influence on Kafka and Kundera, who called her "the mother of Czech prose." The book's second ...more
The introduction of this book makes it a point to say that this book is not a biography, and it isn't. What it is is a collection of footnotes, letters, fiction, and photographs that give you a snapshot of Božena Němcová's life. Němcová is considered to be the mother of Czech literature, famous for her fairy-tales and the classic "The Grandmother."

I had no idea Božena Němcová even existed before I found this book in a used bookshop, but I fell in love with her. Ervick weaves together a beautiful
Kristin Czarnecki
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová: A Biographical Collage is a beautiful book in which Ervick's fascination with 19th-century woman writer Božena Němcová unfolds alongside the story of her (Ervick's) divorce. Part biography, part fiction, part memoir, part epistolary, and enhanced by the Ervick's own evocative art, this book is a treasure: original, creative, and moving, infused with the author's curiosity, wit, and multifold talents.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was unfamiliar with Nemcova and her influence on many Czech writers. As I read through this, I was continually struck by the immense effort and passion required of Parker Ervick to write about Nemcova. It's one thing to write a biography (especially one of such creative form) of a relatively unknown author. It's quite another thing to do so when some of that author's work and a lot of the words written about her have not been translated from a foreign language that you don't speak or read. Kud ...more
Jennifer Pullen
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
A strange and beautiful genre bending book about an important and under appreciated proto-feminist fairy tale writer.
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you want something beautiful, you need this book. Coming in November from Rose Metal Press, The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová, by Kelcey Parker Ervick, is as lovely to look at as it is to read. From its gorgeous cover, to the found pieces inside and the postcards from the author, arranged and presented in this collage-like form, this was a sort of hybrid, biography within a biography, a picture of not only the Czech fairy tale writer, Božena Němcová, but also of the author. A work of art, bea ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
The rating of this book is almost pointless since it is so unique. Certainly it should get 5 stars for originality; and as an object it is gorgeous; and finally it pushes one to want to delve into both her writings and a fuller understanding of her life.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautifully curated collection of snapshots into the life of an extremely under appreciated female author.
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Nov 03, 2017
Emily Shearer
So original in format and material. I admire Kelcey's commitment to this obscure Czech writer with whom she closely identified and formed a friendship. It must not have been easy to dig through all the research, all the while passionately sensing the well-merited indignation that this once-darling but nigh-forgotten and overlooked writer was not recognized for her contribution to the canon of literature and women to look to for guidance both in letters and in life. The second part of the book, m ...more
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Kelcey Parker Ervick is the author of The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová, a hybrid work of biography, memoir, and art. She is the author of two award-winning works of fiction: For Sale By Owner (Kore Press) and Liliane’s Balcony (Rose Metal Press), a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. A recipient of grants from the Indiana Arts Commission and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, she teac ...more

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