The Weird Fiction Review is a new, stunning site on weird fiction with much international focus, truly one of the most welcome new additions to the genre in recent years. Here they interview Czech writer Michal Ajvaz:
Michal Ajvaz (1949 -) is a brilliant Czech novelist, poet and translator. Born into an exiled Russian family, Ajvaz studied Czech studies and esthetics at Charles University in Prague. He did not begin publishing fiction until 1989, due to the political repression in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia). Ajvaz’s brand of fiction would have been antithetical to any entrenched orthodoxy. His novel Prázdné ulice was awarded the prestigious Jaroslav Seifert Prize for literary achievement (2005). English-language translations include the critically acclaimed The Other City (2009) and The Golden Age (2010) from Dalkey Archive Press. Ajvaz often comes by the “weirdness” in his fiction through dark humor and absurdity, as exemplified by his story “The End of the Garden” (1991), included in our The Weird compendium. (See also Jeff’s review of The Other City.) – Ann &Jeff VanderMeer
Weirdfictionreview.com: Was weird fiction welcome in the household the young Ajvaz grew up in, and what form did it take?
Michal Ajvaz: At the time of my childhood, in the 1950s, in Czechoslovakia, it was impossible to buy weird books (or any non-realistic books) in bookshops. But there were some ways and my father was a really literate man, so we had a big bookcase with good books, some of them retained from the time before World War II, some of them bought in secondary bookshops, and the bookcase became an area of adventurous expeditions with exciting discoveries for me as a child. There were not so many of weird books in the bookcase, but I found there for instance Poe or Gustav Meyrink. I also began soon to discover books myself and to search for them in secondary bookshops. Then at the beginning of the 1960s the political and cultural atmosphere in the country changed and many books were allowed to be published that where prohibited formerly. (Then in the 1970s, after the Soviet invasion, everything got worse again.) The first weird authors I encountered were Poe, Alexander Grin, and Ray Bradbury, when I was ten or eleven, then E. T. A. Hoffmann and Ambrose Bierce when I was twelve, Kafka when I was fourteen, then Ladislav Klíma (Czech philosopher and novelist), Lautréamont, Villiers de l´Isle Adam, Mandiargues, Alfred Kubin, Junger… I didn´t read H.P. Lovecraft until I was thirty-five, even if I had known his name since my childhood from Bradbury´s The Martian Chronicles, but there was no possibility to get his books in Czechoslovakia. – continue reading!