Michal Ajvaz [Czech Republic]
Author photograph © Jan Rasch
Do you see your work as fitting into the traditions of European fiction--or indeed any national or regional tradition?
There are many traditions of European fiction and I think my work has been influenced by some of them: above all a Central-European tradition of the oneiric grotesque (Kafka, Kubin); a tradition of French surrealism (Breton, Mandiargues, Gracq), pre-surrealism (Lautréamont, Jarry, Roussel) and para-surrealism (Michaux); a tradition of "phenomenological" fiction (Proust, Rilke, Larbaud); and also a tradition of generic adventure (Verne) and detective stories (Conan-Doyle, Souvestre & Allain). But I think that it would be also possible to find traces of many other traditions, European or otherwise, in my work.
Are there any exciting trends, movement, or schools in contemporary Czech fiction? Who do you feel are the overlooked contemporary authors writing in the Czech Republic who should be more widely read and translated?
There are many interesting authors of fiction in Czech Republic—Jáchym Topol, Daniela Hodrová, Jiří Kratochvil, Pavel Řezníček and others. And of course Milan Kundera, but he writes in French now.
Who are the contemporary European writers from other countries that are writing compelling fiction?
I like Julien Gracq above all, but he died three years ago. I am afraid I do not know very much about contemporary European literature.
Are there enough publishing outlets in the Czech Republic for contemporary fiction? Is there a market for literary fiction in the Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic is a relatively small country and consequently the market for fiction is small as well.
Do you want your work to be translated? Why or why not?
I think every author wants to be translated. Translations are interesting for me—among others—because they show me how differently my work can be received in different countries.
Given a choice, would you prefer a faithful, literal translation of your work or an interpretive re-imagining of it? Why?
A compromise between both is the best.
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