Year of publication: 2011
Published by: Host
Buy the book: Host
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Kobold is a double novel – two stories in one, water and fire, two elements in one. It is left to the reader to decide which part to read first, and the link between the stories and characters is revealed only gradually.
Prague, Christmas 1941. Michael Kobold, a man obsessed with the river Vltava and Charles Bridge, tries to put a coat on the statue of St. John Nepomuk. Man and statue tumble into the freezing river. In the ensuing commotion, 17-year-old budding writer Hella, a sensitive girl from a well-to-do Jewish family, jumps off the Bridge to avoid being crushed by the crowd. In the rescue boat she encounters and falls for Kobold, half-man and half-water goblin, and marries him against the wishes of her family. She escapes being deported with her parents to a concentration camp, only to end up in the prison of a destructive marriage.
Prague, early 21st century. Hella’s and Kobold’s daughter returns to her native city after many years abroad and recalls the devastating impact her parents’ relationship and the fateful river had had on herself and her younger twin brothers.
A working-class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Prague, present day. Justýna, an unemployed young Roma single mother is desperately trying to make ends meet and keep custody of her nine children. The only person who is genuinely fond of her and secretly tries to help is a lonely, disabled funeral parlour attendant. However, amidst a newly prosperous, indifferent society neither of the two unfortunate, marginalized characters stands a chance.
Kobold is two stories in one, water and fire, two elements in one. It is left to the reader to decide which part to read first, and the link between the stories and characters is revealed only gradually. An Abundance of Tenderness, the longer of the two stories, is a powerful indictment of domestic violence and the totalitarian undercurrents lurking within individuals and families. The second and shorter story, An Abundance of People, is a passionate condemnation of a society that has lost all sense of solidarity with the less fortunate, pushing them to the margins as if they suffered from a contagious disease. This society, Radka Denemarková believes, is the breeding ground for ‘Kobolds’- “people who are highly intelligent but with zero emotional intelligence and zero social empathy”. By manipulating others these people reach the top at lightning speed. My novel encompasses a plethora of themes, including totalitarianism.”
Kobold loosely follows previous novels The Devil by the Nose (2005) and Money from Hitler (2006) – by this novel, the author completed the trilogy about the Central-European 20th century.
2011 nominated for the JOSEF ŠKVORECKÝ PRIZE
2011 book mentioned in the Lidové noviny opinion poll “LITERARY EVENT OF THE YEAR 2011” (by Jana Klusáková, Markéta Hejkalová and Petr Kotyk)
- Slovenian edition: Kobold. Presežki ljudi / Presežki nežnosti. Translated by Tatjana Jamnik. Modrijan, Ljubljana 2013.
- Polish edition: Kobold. Translated by Olga Czernikow. Książkowe Klimaty. Warsaw, 2019.
Other books from this trilogy: