The Golden Age is a fantastical travelogue in which a modern-day Gulliver attempts a treatise on a tiny island civilization in the Atlantic. The islanders seem at first to do nothing but sit and observe the world, and indeed draw no distinction between reality and representation, so that a mirror image seems as substantial to them as a person (and vice versa); but the center of their culture is revealed to be “The Book,” a handwritten, collective novel filled with feuding royal families, murderous sorcerers, and narrow escapes. Anyone is free to write in “The Book,” adding their own stories, crossing out others, or even appending “footnotes” in the form of little paper pouches full of extra text—but of course there are pouches within pouches, so that the story is impossible to read “in order,” and soon begins to overwhelm the narrator’s orderly treatise.
Novelist, poet, critic, and translator Michal Ajvaz was born into a Russian family in Prague in 1949. He studied at Prague’s Charles University and works at the Prague Centre for Theoretical Studies; in addition to his fiction and poetry, he’s published monographs on Derrida and Borges. He received the Jaroslav Siefert Prize in 2005 for his novel Prázdné ulice (Empty Streets).