Name
Jáchym Topol
Country
Czech Republic
Jáchym Topol was born in Prague in 1962. He comes from a family of writers: his father Josef Topol is considered, alongside Vaclav Havel, the most important Czech playwright from the sixties, and his grandfather Karel Schulz was a well-known novelist. After Topol, like his father, had signed the Charta 77, he was refused the opportunity to study. He was later sent to an asylum along with other intellectuals during the time he was meant to perform his military service, which he declined to do. Upon being discharged Topol worked as fireman, warehouse worker, and coal carrier. It was then that he developed an until then unheard-of use of the Czech language. »I have learned to use the language of people who were perhaps dangerous. I began to apply this language to literature. … The language is scattered, it is not compact, but rather destroyed, broken, and that works.« Topol then wrote the lyrics for »Psí vojáci« (Dog Soldiers), a legendary rock band headed by his younger brother Filip. In 1985 Topol helped found the Samizdat literary magazine »Revolver Revue«, in which his first volume of poems, »Miluju t? k zblázn?ní« (t: I love you unto madness), appeared. For this early work he was awarded the Tom Stoppard Prize for Unofficial Literature by the Stockholm-based Charta 77 Foundation. During the collapse of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia Topol worked for the publication »Informacní servis«, out of which grew the weekly journal »Respekt«, under whose assignment Topol reported from Eastern Europe after the Velvet Revolution. He later studied Ethnology for a time in Prague. Following the publication of new volumes of poetry, Topol wrote his first novel, »Sestra« (1994; Eng: »City, Sister, Silver«, 2000), during a three-month residency in Germany. With this book he transformed himself from Underground star to internationally-acclaimed cult author. In associative sentences, Topol tells the story of a gang which, after the political upheaval of 1989, ekes out a living through small criminal activities until their ventures spin out of control and the protagonist is forced to leave the city – at the side of a mysterious female figure, the »sister«. The work was awarded the Egon Hostovský Prize for Best Book of the Year. Topol then wrote his second novel, »Andel« (1995; t: Angel), in which he again describes the post Cold War period as a grotesque, Babylonian chaos, turning to Czech post war history in his most recent novels. »Nocní práce« (2001; t: Nightwork) is an account of two children of a dissident, sent to the countryside by their father, following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russian troupes. Elements of this plot are taken up in »Kloktat dehet« (2005; Eng. »To Gurgle Tar«). An orphan child adapting to the different ruling systems since World War II finally ends up in the »Circus Zone«, a fictitious, phantasmagorical and anarchically rendered continuation of the Prague Spring.
Commissioned by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, the author wrote his first play, »Droga do Bugulmy« (2006; t: The journey to Bugulma), a cynical grotesque between the communist past and a Europe of the future which is threatened by terrorism. The play's world premiere was performed as part of the series »The new Europe – waiting for the barbarians?«, together with works by Andrzey Stasiuk and Yuri Andrukhovych. Topol lives with his wife and his two daughters in Prague.


Publications in English translation
City, Sister, Silver. Translated by Alex Zucker. Catbird Press, North Haven, CT