Michal Hvorecký

Michal Hvorecký (1976) is a fiction writer living in Bratislava. His books include the collection of short stories Silný pocit čistoty (An Intense Feeling of Cleanliness), Lovci & zberači (Hunters & Gatherers), novels Posledný hit (The Last Hit), Plyš (Plush), Eskorta (The Escort) and collection of shorts stories and text Pastiersky list (Pastoral Epistle). His latest book, Dunaj v Amerike (The Danube in America) appeared in May this year and has become an instant bestseller. His books have appeared in German, Polish and Czech translation; Italian and Serbian editions are due to be published soon. He is a regular contributor to domestic and international newspapers, as well as a regular participant of the Wilsonic Music Festival he started in 2000 with his friend, DJ and dramaturge, Tibor Holoda.

How to improve the teaching of literature?

The Slovak Centre for Education Methodology, the institution in charge of developing school curricula, has asked for my views on teaching literature at secondary schools. Having visited scores of gymnasiums and other types of schools across the country over the past few years, I expressed my views openly and critically. Surprisingly enough, the Centre’’s staff agreed with everything I said – changes in the way language and literature are being taught Slovakia are proceeding too slowly or not at all. Here are my suggestions on how to change this state of affairs: 1. Stop the orthodox emphasis on (mostly) outdated […]

Transylvania on a slippery slope

Slovak jingoists can be very vocal when it suits them but for some reason, you don’’t hear them protesting against the abolishing of Slovak tuition at universities abroad. As a result of budget cuts at the Slovak Ministry of Education, thirteen universities abroad will be losing their Slovak lectors. In France, for example, where until recently it was possible to study Slovak language and literature to degree level at three universities, this option will not be available for much longer. This is another absurd austerity measure, which will result primarily in a further drop in the number of literary and […]

Kafka vs Mills&Boon

I ran a two-day writing course for teachers at a Slovak university in the Vrátna Valley in September 2010. By January 2011 I was still waiting to receive my €€216 fee (including travel costs and the per diem). Since the workshop was funded by the European Union, I had to sign three forms on the spot. I thought that had taken care of the bureaucracy and was looking forward to future cooperation. A few weeks later the organizers wrote to say they urgently needed my Europass CV. As I had no idea what that was, they provided me with a […]

Where is My Country?

The British writer William Boyd has recently praised Daniela Kapitáňová’’s novel Samko Tále’’s Cemetery Book in the Guardian.  I was delighted and rather proud to learn that this was the book he chose out of the plethora of publications on the British market. Translations of our fiction are quite rare, and that is why the work done by the translator, Julia Sherwood, the daughter of Agneša and Ján Kalina, famous émigrés and natives of Prešov [in eastern Slovakia], deserves to be spotlighted. What made my joy even greater was the fact that I have recently enjoyed reading Boyd’s thriller Restless. […]

A Small Country in a Big Game

Over the past few years I have often found it embarrassing to say I hailed from Slovakia. Long gone was the charm offensive my country had launched at the start of the new century. The extreme right-wing Slovak National Party (SNS), a proud member of the ruling coalition led by the Social Democrat Prime Minister Robert Fico had fanned the hatred of the Hungarian minority, causing serious damage to the country’’s relations with its southern neighbour. A rekindling of ethnic conflict and a resulting destabilization at its centre is what Europe least needs. Ján Slota, the SNS leader, referred to […]

Neighbours Without Qualities

As someone born in 1976 I belong to the generation of  Gustáv Husák’’s [Communist Party Chief and later President of Czechoslovakia] children, of whom around  a million were born within a single decade.  It was hard to imagine a  greater contrast than that between these baby boomers and the aging leadership. Vasiľ Biľak [one of the Communist hardliners who had invited in the Russian tanks in 1968] was born in 1917, President Husák in 1913.  The Soviet Politburo was also extremely elderly and were the butt of jokes about which politician would be the first to die. My long-term platonic love affair […]

Susedský vzťah bez vlastností / Esej

Narodil som sa roku 1976 a patrím do generácie detí Gustáva Husáka, ktorých sa počas jedného desaťročia narodilo takmer milión. Oproti baby boomu ani nemohol byť väčší kontrast ako prestarnuté vedenie štátu. Vasiľ Biľak bol ročník 1917, prezident Husák dokonca 1913. Aj sovietske politbyro bolo mimoriadne prestarnuté a mnohé vtipy sa točili okolo toho, ktorý politik skôr zomrie. Môj dlhoročný platonický vzťah s Rakúskom, predovšetkým s Viedňou, sa zařal v detstve. Každý piatok si mnohé bratislavské rodiny kupovali rakúske noviny Volkstimme. V centrálnom orgáne Komunistickej strany Rakúska vychádzal program rakúskej televízie, ktorý sa nikde inde v Československu nedal zistiť. Tento Hlas ľudu, v krajine […]

That Summer Morning My Childhood Suddenly Ended

The first summer on which I can provide a detailed report started 12 years ago. Until then, two months of holidays almost always looked the same. On the 1st of July we would leave for our summer house in the Low Tatra mountains and return on August 31st. From the mountains we would sporadically take off on trips to internationally attractive locations, such as Kokava nad Rimavicou or Zemplínska šírava, the latter being known out of pure desperation as the Slovak sea. The westernmost city I had ever seen was called, appropriately, East Berlin. The idyllic wilderness in the hills […]

The End of the Economic Miracle

Within five years our economy will reach the level of Austria!, shouted the man with the tannoy. I was beside myself with joy, and so were the crowds around me. It was on a freezing November day, I was thirteen years old and the man was Milan Kňažko, actor, people’s tribune and one of the leaders of Slovakia’’s democratic opposition. For many inhabitants of Bratislava, a city just 60 kilometres from Vienna, the non-aligned neighbour Austria was a model, a dream country, an idyllic world of make-believe, a way out of the isolated prison of their really existing socialism. The […]

A Russian Winter

  I can’’t understand why Russia’’s turning off the gas taps sent such shockwaves through all of Europe and why even the leaders of the Old World could not understand what made the strapping, rosy-cheeked Gazprom managers take such a brutal decision. In actual fact, it’’s clearer than the Moscow and St. Petersburg sun. It’’s yet another inevitable step in the inexorable quest to promote Russia’’s unique culture around the world. A freezing calm In the early nineties the ungrateful European countries, including Czecho-Slovakia, expelled from their territories the Russian army which had been promoting peace and understanding among nations for twenty […]