Prague, April 5 (CTK) – The first Czech novel about the refugee crisis, Unava materialu (Fatigue of material) by Marek Sindelka, won the Magnesia Litera 2017 prize for the best Czech prose of the year that was awarded in the National Theatre in Prague on Tuesday night.
The novel is a story of a journey of two Arab teenage brothers through Europe. It shows immigrants who come Europe to seek a better life and lose their illusions.
“My main motivation to write the book were the suffocated refugees,” Sindelka told CTK previously, referring to a report on a truck parked on the side of the Budapest-Vienna motorway, in the back of which 71 dead refugees were found in 2015.
“Originally, I wanted to write a book about the truck. A story of a vehicle that is first made in a car factory, then it transports meat around Europe and ends up parked on a motorway full of dead bodies. I eventually gave up this idea. It was very harsh and cold and I realised that I need some people in the book. I finally decided to write a story of a person who ended up in the truck,” Sindelka said.
The main character of the novel, 13-year-old Amir, is afraid and ashamed. He feels that he is not welcome in Europe and that the locals are not those beautiful, smiling people whom he knew from films. Europe is mostly corridors, motorway overpasses, warehouses and first of all fences.
“It seems to me that the current literature should write about this… I wanted to focus on people who experience a situation of absolute eradication and isolation. It is a book about people rather than migrants,” Sindelka told CTK.
He said he did not want his own opinion on migration be apparent in the book.
“It is a rather simple story of a teenage boy who walks through landscape, heading somewhere north and seeking his elder brother,” Sindelka said.
He said he did not deal with geopolitics and concentrated on the boy’s feelings, his fear and total isolation also caused by the fact that the boy did not have a mobile phone. “One can hardly imagine how important a phone is for him. Just because it includes a map and contacts of one’s loved ones,” Sindelka said.
Sindelka, 33, cooperates with the Meta NGO that provides aid to foreigners in the Czech Republic and he visits Czech schools to have discussions with students.
Fatigue of material (2016) is Sindelka’s second novel. His first novel, Chyba (Error), was issued in 2008. In 2012, his collection of short stories, Zustante s nami (Stay with us), won the Magnesia Litera prize for prose. In 2014, he published another collection of stories, Mapa Anny (A map of Anne). His short stories were translated into several European languages.
On Tuesday, the Magnesia Litera jury named Jezero (The lake), a novel by Bianca Bellova, the Czech book of the year. Bellova is a Czech writer with Bulgarian roots. The novel is a post-apocalyptic parable of environmental destruction followed by the destruction of human relations and individual souls. It is a story of a boy, Nami, trying to find his mother in an exotic environment similar to the Aral Sea.
The winner of the journalism category is Brnox, a book on social art project by Katerina Seda. Seda focused on everyday life in the district of the Brno city called Bronx, inhabited by Romanies and poor people in general.
Ondrej Nezbeda won the prize for the discovery of the year with a book presenting his own experience from hospitals and hospices and from his conversations with the dying and their close relatives.
The readers’ choice award went to the book Postel hospoda kostel (Bed pub church) in which Marketa Zahradnikova interviews Zbygniew Czendlik, a Roman Catholic priest from Poland based in the Czech Republic.