Death, Thou Shall Not Be Afraid: The Story of Petr Lébl

Radka Denemarková: Smrt nebudeš se báti, aneb příběh Petra Lébla. Host, 2008.Original title: Smrt, nebudeš se báti aneb příběh Petra Lébla
Pages: 648
Year of publication: 2008
Published by: Host
ISBN: 978-80-7294-288-6
Buy the book: Host
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A documentary novel about Petr Lébl, theatre director, stage designer, actor, and former art director of the Divadlo Na Zábradlí theatre.
Magnesia Litera Prize in the category of non-fiction.

The book about Peter Lébl (1965–1999), on which the author had been working for several years, is an attempt at the unique monograph of a theater director, stage designer, actor, and former art director of the Divadlo na Zábradlí theatre. At the same time, however, it is an attempt to map the life of an unhappy young man and the time he lived in. The book is not only a story of Lébl’s theatrical work: it captures the transformations of the period’s perception of theatre and art in a wider context, but it is also a chronicle of the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first century. Of the times which catapulted Lébl into the glare. Denemarková, however, also asks the question whether this was just a “puffy bubble” which emerged after desolate and ideologically uncompromisingly shaped years, or perhaps something of a major controversial way of work has survived to this day. She is even leaning towards extreme thesis that Lébl’s bold and elusive “image” was perhaps “more remarkable” than the work itself.


2009 MAGNESIA LITERA PRIZE for the best book in the category of non-fiction

2009 nominated for JOSEF ŠKVORECKÝ PRIZE

2009 mentioned in Lidové noviny opinion poll BOOK OF THE YEAR 2009 (Viola Fischerová)

From the jury’s reasoning

Death, thou shall not be afraid, or the story of Petr Lébl“ by Radka Denemarková reads as a big novel, but its core lies in everyday writings. Using correspondence, diaries, historical documents, personal experience and eyewitness memories, the author has created something in a style of an extensive biographical reportage in which she deals in detail not only with the Icarus-like fate of a gifted playwright, but also depicts the changes in the spirit of the times from mid-eighties till the end of the nineties. The portrayal of recent history is presented not only through the artist’s biography, but also by interpretation of his stage plays, where the Zeitgeist could be seen in poetic and visual shortcuts and free associations and metaphors. The book also deals with the timeless topic of a strong personality, whose extraordinary charisma and talent stemmed in part from a mental disease. The author was able to balance a romantic approach with a critical one: she has not simplified the problem, but allowed it to sound out in its full complicity. It is quite obvious from the text that her pursuit of finding an appropriate form for Lebl’s story was long and demanding. That is part of the reason she created such an unusual piece of work, unparalleled so far in our literature.Jury of the Magnesia Litera Prize

From the reviews

Could be read as an unusual fact-based testimony to a double struggle to find one’s own identity: at first the struggle of the novel’s main character, and later, deeper into the text, also the struggle of the novel’s author herself.Viola Fischerová, in the Lidové noviny BOOK OF THE YEAR 2009 opinion poll

All reviews

Foreign editions

  • Rights sold to: Slovenia: KUD Police Dubove – for 2019