The Devil's Workshop | Granta

  • Published: 06/06/2013
  • ISBN: 9781846275425
  • Granta Books
  • 160 pages

The Devil’s Workshop

Jáchym Topol

Translated by Alex Zucker

‘The devil had his workshop here in Belarus. The deepest graves are in Belarus. But nobody knows about them’

A young boy grows up in Terezín – an infamous fortress town with a sinister past. Together with his friends he plays happily in this former Nazi prison, scouting the tunnels for fragments of history under the careful eye of one of its survivors, Uncle Lebo, until one day there is an accident, and he is forced to leave.

Returning to Terezín many years later, he joins Lebo’s campaign to preserve the town, but before long the authorities impose a brutal crack-down, chaos ensues, and the narrator finds himself fleeing to Belarus, where fresh horrors drive him ever closer to the evils he had hoped to escape.

Bold, brilliant and blackly comic, The Devil’s Workshop paints a deeply troubling portrait of two countries dealing with their ghosts and asks: at what point do we consign the past to history?

Jáchym Topol cuts through the blur of brutal tragedy and horrific memory with an acerbic sharp edge and the literary know-how of a novelist who more than understands the power of language. Startling, darkly comic, and deeply, deeply moving

Lee Rourke, author, The Canal

This is a funny, fabulous, bleak and speedy novel. Anyone who has read W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz would surely find The Devil's Workshop an intriguing counterpart

Rebecca Gowers, author, The Twisted Heart

A miracle of compression, its scope greater than ought to be possible for a book of its length. Topol [is] one of the most original and compelling European voices at work today

Daniel Medin, TLS

The Author

Jachym Topol is the leading Czech author of his generation. Famous in his youth as an underground poet and songwriter, since the Velvet Revolution he has written the books that have most successfully and imaginatively captured the dislocation brought about by the fall of communism. His novels include Gargling with Tar, which was published by Portobello in 2011, The Devil’s Workshop (Portobello 2013), which won the 2013 English PEN Award for Writing in Translation, and Nightworks (Portobello 2014).

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