Born in Prague in 1977, David Zábranský is the author of seven works of fiction (novels, novellas, short stories), a radio play, and a stage play. After graduating in Law, Journalism and Media Studies from Charles University, he worked as a lawyer in the NGO sector; his main interests were in human rights, assistance to refugees and equality for the Roma community. He lives in Prague.
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How has reading translations shaped your writing and view of the world?
A lot. I live and write in a very small language and reading translations almost equals to reading in my country. We are just reading translations much more than literature written originally in Czech. That‘s why reading translations sounds even somehow strange to Czech ears; probably only a English speaking person can ask questions like this. So the answer is—a lot. Tremendously. In general, it was mostly the German speaking authors I read. Musil, Boll, Frisch… They are somehow part of my coulture but they speak German...
At first glance, Any Beach but This, the book excerpted on Underpass, appears to be a very European story, but the quest for authenticity is a theme that rings true in America as well. How do you imagine your book would be received by audiences in the United States?
Hm! I do not know but the book, at least to me, seems to be universal. You have snobs and wannabees everywhere… And this book is mainly about snobs and wannabees.
Several of your books have been translated into other languages. What can you share about the process of being translated and published in another language?
Difficult. Especially my writing is based on language and you usually lose some of the details when translating. But my last book, which is going to be published very soon, is based much more on the story, it’s not so dependent on my language and let’s say poetry of speech. It deals with the so called refugee crisis and it’s really the first book written in Czech that deals which this very contemporary subject.
Along with being an established author, you are the editor-in-chief of CzechLit, providing you a vantage into the world of Czech literature. Why should the English reader read Czech writing in translation? What unique perspective does the modern Czech writer bring to the world?
I am not editor in chief of CzechLit any more, I was criticizing my boss and they just kicked me out. Truly speaking, there is not much happening in Czech literature right now. It’s very history-oriented, very self-indulgent, very remote. It’s not communicating at all.