Hours of Lead

Radka Denemarková: Román Hodiny z olova (2019, CZ)Original title: Hodiny z olova
Pages: 752
Year of publication: 2018
Published by: Host
ISBN: 978-80-7577-474-3
Buy the book: Host

A comprehensive novel inspired by author's stays in China.

Magnesia Litera Prize – Book of the Year 2019

The same decisive sentence will strike into fate of families of different generations from several European countries and social strata. A Czech businessman, his wife and teenage daughter, a Russian diplomat, French writer, student of calligraphy, chef and many other protagonists. And their family traumas, the middle age crisis, burnout or puberty. Pilgrims and travelers who have gone to China to clean up their lives, but their world continues falling apart. They lose something irreversibly and they are not able to understand what it is. Looking for a solid point in their past life, but they do not know what to recall.

And, as there is a dramatic break in their private histories, something essential is breaking and changing in the fate of us all. The old world of Europe is over and no one knows what is beginning. And, as every character of the novel experiences the marginal situation as an existential and personal experience, we also experience the “lead hour” all together. People are pulling into themselves, and so begins the era of resigned apathy and demoralization, the era of gray totalitarian consumptive everyday. But there is still a possibility to act. You just need to follow signs.

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2019 MAGNESIA LITERA PRIZE Book of the Year

From jury’s justification

‘Hours of Lead’ is an unusually comprehensive and multi-layered novel, which is purposefully conceived as a political work of art that wants to have an impact. It thematizes the contemporary form of Chinese society as a totalitarian regime, but the core of this view is not so much the way society works, but rather the fate of those who find themselves in the position of victims. The novel’s rendition resigns to the traditional conception of the characters as unique beings that are occasionally subject to haphazard events. The protagonists of the ‘Hours of Lead’ are symbolic types, similar to the tradition of ancient myth. They represent professions, actions and attitudes, with the help of which chilling fatal events take place. Private destinies are entirely in the grip of unstoppable social mechanisms: China’s rise to power is at the same time the opposite of the crumbling values ​​of European civilization, which finds itself in a crisis from which there is no way out. ‘Hours of Lead’ is an attempt to write a novel which gets the reader out of the haughty feeling that he/she is reading ‘only’ a well-thought-out story.Magnesia Litera Prize Jury

Foreign editions

German edition: Stunden aus Blei. Translated by Eva Profousová. Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg 2021.

Rights sold to:
Italy: Miraggi edizioni – for 2022
Slovenia: KUD Police Dubove – for 2022