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THE LAKE by Bianca Bellová
Translated by Alex Zucker
When I was in Prague last month, I found a gorgeous little bookstore around the corner from my apartment in Žižkov. As is my habit, I asked Petr, the owner, to recommend one amazing Czech book I’m unlikely to know. Without hesitating, he pulled out Bianca Bellová’s The Lake. And what a recommendation it was! Winner of a slew of awards, including the EU Prize for Literature and, just last week, the awesome EBRD Prize, The Lake is an emotionally complex, dystopian picaresque that towers above most books in what is now the rusted-in genre du jour.
Nami lives in Boros, a small, isolated fishing village that serves as an outpost for Russian soldiers. Raised by his grandparents, he is bullied and generally mistreated by the villagers. Meanwhile, something is amiss in Boros. The lake is drying up. No matter how many they sacrifice to the water, the village is dying. When his best friend is brutally raped by Russian soldiers, Nami runs away to find the mother he has only heard about in salacious stories. It’s a beguiling and captivating quest, one that intelligently bends genre tropes with its mix of harsh realism and speculative fancies. A must read.
The Lake by Bianca Bellová (Tr. Alex Zucker)
Parthian Books, 2022