The devil’s workshop by Jáchym Topol
Translator Alex Zucker
Original title Chladnou zemí
Source Revew copy
Jáchym Topol is Czech writer his father was a playwright and dissident .This meant Jáchym Topol wasn’t allowed to go to university ,so he wrote lyrics for his rock band during the 70’s and 80’s .He also spent time in prison due to some of his writings before the communist system fell in Czech .When the 1989 revolution happened ,he wrote the newsletter for the movement that went on to become a well-known magazine in Czech republic .He still lives in Prague he has written a number of novels and pieces of non-fiction .
Visit the Devil’s workshop the European monument to genocide ! Arthur declared in a booming voice ,pouring everyone another round of Vodka .
How the book got its title .
So the Devil workshop follows an unnamed narrator that grew up in the town of Terezin ,this brutal imposing town was a Nazi prison during the second world war .He had left ,but is drawn back by an Uncle Lebo and a bizarre plan to turn this town into a sort of Disneyland of the holocaust as his uncle has seen what has happen to other historic sites like this and the money that has been drawn in .There are plans to drastically change the town and to remove the buildings from the Nazi era and the narrators uncle feels the town should be kept and the history built on and is a way of drawing money back to the town . Now the plans to open an attraction happens and they open some sort of tourist attraction to the towns past ,this leads the narrator to flee he decides and arrives in Belarus and then he finds out they want him to do the same as he did in Terezin to a place the call the Devils workshop .A case of history repeating and him feeling it all beginning again .
And food .She copied the idea from the Krakow Ghetto ,so tasty crunchy pizza that Lea and the aunts began to bake in our kitchen became known as Ghetto pizza .The secret ingredient was a light dusting of terezin grass ,a season that didn’t exist anywhere else .
A quite horrific idea really I read this and did worry what the secret ingredient would be
Now this book took Jáchym Topol over twenty year to work on and finally get right .I can see why it took so long it is like trying to balance something on the point of the needle and get the different parts in balance ,the past not just the Nazi past but also the communist past .The value of history is a place of blood and brutality right to make money from ? The need to remember what happened as well .Also the feeling that maybe us in the west have some how forgotten what happen in places like Czech and Belarus during the wart and also after the war .Oh damm I making this sound bleak it is but also there is large chunks of humour in it that bleak gallows humour that situations like this sometimes need ! I was drawn into this world of trying to forge a future and not forgetting the past of ghost and the present it is one hell of a book .I felt Jáchym Topol had handle it all so well it was easy to make this book into something unsuitable about the subjects it covers but no Jáchym Topol had got the tone just right and Alex zucker has done a subtle translation on this book .