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Chladnou zemí

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  61 reviews

Pátrání po stopách dějin se stejně jako u Topolových předchozích próz i v této novele proplétá se surreálně-karnevalovým dějem. Lakonicky vyprávěný příběh je archeologií hrůzy, vrstvu za vrstvou odkrývá území novější evropské minulosti. Ve chvíli, kdy umírají poslední příslušníci generace, která to vše ještě zažila, Topol ukazuje, jak jejich potomci bojují o uchování příbě

Paperback, 140 pages
Published 2009 by Torst
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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[4.5] A sick little satire about the touristification of former concentration camps, with a surprisingly British sense of black comedy loitering under the looming totalitarianism of Central European history (Czech Republic, Belarus). The first "project", in Terezín, often had a tone similar to lampoon of "edgy" new media startups. (Theresienstadt: If Franz Kafka hadn't died, they would have killed him here is the sort of souvenir t-shirt slogan you can see Nathan Barley coming up with.) And a Co ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes a bold writer to approach two examples of man's inhumanity to man with dark humour, but the author of this short book achieves this allowing the reader to feel uncomfortable as he confronts the greatest horrors of the twentieth century.
The book splits the story between Terezin in the Czech republic, a town which was the site of Nazi massacres and a Belarus town where the Russian army burned the inhabitants in their farm buildings. The unnamed narrator, born in a Nazi camp, as an adult e
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech
Recently, a screencap from a Swedish high schooler's Facebook made the rounds on social media. It pictured her and her friends on a school trip to Auschwitz, dancing under the ARBEIT MACHT FREI sign, captioned with "Refuse to be PC, lol!"

In The Devil's Workshop, a young Swedish woman comes to Theresienstadt looking for her family history, winds up staying and masterminding the campaign to turn what's left of the city into a tourist attraction, complete with slogans like "If Franz Kafka had survi
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read to say the least. I think I'm going to write an essay on it so I'll probably come back and write a full review later. It's pretty disturbing and horrific near the end, so I wouldn't recommend it for the fainthearted among you, but it definitely brought up some interesting issues, particularly in its satirization of dark tourism and how we, as a community, remember the Holocaust. I'm particularly interested in the role of satire itself in memory and what it is able, a ...more
Kate Vane
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel by Czech writer Jáchym Topol is a dark satire which asks troubling questions on what we should remember and what we should forget.

The unnamed narrator grows up in Terezín, a town which houses a Medieval fortress and a former Nazi prison. His father is a military bandsman, his mother a survivor of the prison, as are most of the people of the town. The narrator grows up, in a mockery of a pastoral idyll, herding goats on the fortifications, scrabbling in underground tunnels for Nazi mem
Rob Stainton
You know how a really dark, bitter hallucinogenic satire can reveal something deep and moving? Well, sometimes it can also just be dark and bitter and hallucinogenic.
Andy Weston
Belarus (then Byelorussia) suffered the worst devastation of any country during the war in terms of a percentage of its population. Over a quarter of its population, 2,290,000 people, died during the conflict. The population was 9.5 million in 1941, and 5.2 million in 1945. 66% of all Jews in the country, over a million, were amongst those dead.
Jáchym Topol's The Devil’s Workshop, is a darkly comic way of relating the horrors of the past to the present in the country. Topol is Czech, and his un
Feb 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Black, barbed and horrific. A novel that confronts you with just how much darkness there is in human history to know
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
not that pleasing of a writing style but interesting story
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't decide whether to give it a 4 or 5. The hesitation stems from the book not being deliciously wonderful or entrancing. It was bracing, and perhaps some of the praises of its power of language and literary know-how were dimmed just-a-little-bit in translation. Also, I misplaced the book about half-way through, so my reading was interrupted. But I give it a 5 because it quickly leaves one pondering important, indefinable questions whose dust need be kicked up and whirled around from time-t ...more
Robert Wechsler
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech-lit
This excellent novella is divided into two parts. The first part, which takes place in postwar Terézin, where the Germans had created a “model” Jewish ghetto, is fantastic. The narrator's voice, and the world of this nearly abandoned and jeopardized town, which Topol so imaginatively creates, are incredible. Everything works.

The second half, which takes place in and near Minsk, Belarus, didn’t work nearly as well for me (it will be others' favorite part). It has the frantic form of the second ha
My review of this (with mentions of a couple of Topol's other works) is available at The Quarterly Conversation: ...more
Kyaw Zayar Lwin
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is so simple and I really did enjoy the book.
Christi Winkelman
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark and comical perspective of tourism in the aftermath of the concentration camps. It was interesting. Worth reading and sharing.
Julie Griffin
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not for the faint hearted. I gave up on it once and came back to it. Reading this book for the part set in Belarus for a Reading Around the World Challenge. It starts on a site of a Nazi Concentration camp with survivors and their descendants striving to preserve the history and the poignancy of the site while the bureaucracy is sanitizing the site and tearing down the village--erasing the history so to speak. They succeed, and our protagonist, a goat herder and former prisoner who ...more
Danielle Bodnar
There’s an interesting premise behind The Devil’s Workshop, and the penultimate chapter is something out of a horror novel. But the style in which it was written just didn’t work for me. The overly simplistic style and jerky narrative confused me to the point of detraction. I understand the rationale in relation to the narrator main character, but when it comes to basic facts about the characters themselves I could’ve used a little more context.

I’ve enjoyed 20th century Czech literature (Kundera
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Put this book down after reading no more than a quarter of it.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uncomfortable read. Unnamed narrator leads us from nazi horrors in Slovakia to russian ones in Belarus.
Barbara McEwen
Feb 05, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: central-europe
3.5 stars
Georgia (thefictionfolio)
This was a weird book

... would recommend
As we know, the world of translated book prizes contains a hefty amount of World War Two fiction, therefore it is no surprise to see this work feature on the longlist for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. Is it worthy of making the list for the writing, not the subject matter alone?

Welcome to a bleak place, yes a very bleak place. “Terezin, an eighteenth-century fortress town north of Prague that the Gestapo used as a prison and ghetto for Jews in the Second World War.” Our nameless protagoni
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do we remember the horrors of the past? Is it possible to memorialize them without manipulation, sentimentalization, or commercialization? And if it isn't, should we just accept the crassness? The Devil's Workshop is a very dark satire about the Holocaust business, that is, the business of how we collectively choose to approach our worst behaviors as a species. We can't do it head on, so we construct solemn memorials and accompany them with tours, audiovisual shows, and gift shops, like any ...more
Jai Lau
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is split into two parts. The first part takes place in the remains of the concentration camp in Terezín, where a survivor, Lebo, seems to have the noble cause of preserving the town by turning the eyes of the world to what took place there. Terezín attracts exactly the wrong sort of people to join this cause, those with tenuous links to what happened there and with nothing better to do. Slowly, these "bunker-seekers" turn Terezín into a tourist attraction churning out t-shirts of Kafka ...more
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a dark work. The darkness reveals something of the nature of "Eastern Europe", if we can ever truly agree where that is... Something of the darkness in human nature is revealed too. If a horror is committed in the woods and there's no one around to commemorate it, did it happen?
Topol's style is arresting, there's a lot of simple repetition but it drives the story. There were some elements of the tale that had me scratching my head with incredulity, but the bones of the tale and the
Jun 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ranging in scope from the Czech town of Terezin to Minsk in Belarus "The Devil's Workshop" addresses Holocaust issues in a modern setting. Specifically the mass graves scattered all over the east. Who are the victims? And who did the killing? Killing on an unprecedented scale... Hundreds of thousands of dead; whole communities exterminated on no more pretext then their ethnicity or politics.

this is a rather bleak novel, dealing with dark issues, but it is well written, and races along. My only
May 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark comic book, leaves lasting impression. Two places of holocaust murders - Terezin in Czech Republic and Katyn in Belarus. The theme has to with memory of horrors that can't be wiped from history - or can they? Remembering, forgetting, commerce, being too close, too far, and, ultimately, fiercely human. ...more
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book shortly before my journey to Belarus and it strongly influenced my experience. One way or another this book is about past and present, about us and people who lived before us.
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great piece. Needs to be translated into English and given attention in academic circles. Also is a good ride as a read.
Mar 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A topic that isn't to be taken lightly, ruined by confusing style, boring characters and meandering plot. The only upside - it's just 120 pages. ...more
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
3.6 stars... tipped to four for the last section of the book, set in Khatyn.
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Jáchym Topol was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to Josef Topol, Czech playwright, poet, and translator of Shakespeare, and Jiřina Topolová, daughter of the famous Czech Catholic writer Karel Schulz.

Topol's writing began with lyrics for the rock band Psí vojáci, led by his younger brother, Filip, in the late '70s and early '80s. In 1982, he cofounded the samizdat magazine Violit, and in 1985 Revol

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