Jáchym Topol

photo by Chad Evans Wyatt

Jáchym Topol was born in Prague on August 4, 1962. He comes from a well-known literary family. His father, Josef Topol, is a renowned Czech playwright, poet, and Shakespeare translator, who was very active in all dissident activities, while his grandfather, Karel Schulz, was a prominent Catholic writer best known for a trilogy on the life and work of Michelangelo.

Topol's writing began with lyrics for a rock band called Psí vojáci (Dog Soldiers), led by his younger brother, Filip, in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1982 he cofounded the samizdat magazine Violit, and in 1985 Topol cofounded Revolver Revue, a samizdat review that specialized in new Czech writing.

Because of his father's dissident activities, Topol was not allowed to go to university. Therefore, after graduating from the gymnasium, he worked as a stoker, stocker, construction worker, and coal deliveryman. Several times he was imprisoned for short periods, both for his samizdat publishing activities and for his smuggling across the Polish border in cooperation with Polish Solidarity.

Topol played an active part in the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, taking part in initial meetings of Civic Forum, as well as writing, editing, and publishing the independent newsletter Informacní servis (Information Service), which became, after the revolution, the investigative weekly Respekt. Topol remained at Respekt as a reporter while continuing as editor-in-chief of Revolver Revue. (He left Respekt in 1992 and Revolver in 1993.)

His first collection of poetry, I Love You Madly, published in samizdat in 1988, received the Tom Stoppard Prize for Unofficial Literature (founded in 1983 by Mr. Stoppard, a British playwright of Czech parents, and awarded by the Charter 77 Foundation in Stockholm). In 1990 I Love You Madly was published officially by Atlantis. Topol's second volume of poetry, The War Will Be On Tuesday, came out in 1993. Topol's poetry has been translated into Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, and Vietnamese.

Topol's first work of fiction, City Sister Silver (Sestra), published by Atlantis in 1994, won the Egon Hostovský Prize as Czech book of the year (the prize was founded in 1973 by Regina Hostovská, widow of the Czech novelist Egon Hostovský, who had gone into exile in the United States; until 1989 it was awarded each year to a work of prose by a persecuted Czech author published in exile, and then became the major award for all Czech prose).

He lives in Prague.

CITY SISTER SILVER is a phantasmagorical attempt to capture the emotional dislocation that followed the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

$19.95 paper, 508 pp., ISBN-0945774-45-1. Also available as an e-book.

"A masterpiece of postcommunist Czech fiction."

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