Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers announces: The 31st Annual Jiří Orten Award Presented to Ondřej Macl

The winner of this year's 31st Jiří Orten Award is Ondřej Macl for his original mosaic of genres entitled I Love My Granny More Than Young Women (Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky). The award was presented on May 10 at an afternoon ceremony held as part of the Book World Prague 2018 book fair. The expert jury, nominated by the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, had shortlisted the following books from the total of 20 registered titles: Lucie Faulerová's debut novel The Dust Catchers, twenty-year-old Emma Kausc's poetry collection Cycles and Ondřej Macl's inventive collage of genres I Love My Granny More Than I Love Young Women. The winning book has been praised by the jury for its "grandmother archetype captured in an inventive mosaic of genres, enhanced by intellectual play".

The winner was selected by an expert jury composed of the poet and editor Olga Stehlíková (chairwoman), literary journalist Josef Chuchma, literary theorist Michal Jareš, editor and writer Vratislav Maňák and translator and poet Radek Malý.

The 2018 Jiří Orten Award was presented with support from the Czech Republic's Ministry of Culture and partnership from the Prague City Hall, whose representative presented the winner with a cheque for CZK 50,000. For the first time this year the prize also entails a month-long residency in Berlin in September of this year, provided courtesy of the Czech Literary Centre, section of the Moravian Land Library, in co-operation with the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers and the Berlin Czech Centre. The Czech Literary Centre will also provide the laureate with a month-long scholarship.

The Jiří Orten Award is presented to an author of a work of prose or poetry written in the Czech language, who has not exceeded the age of thirty years at the time of the work's publication. This prestigious prize is awarded since 1987, and since 2009 has been organised by the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers (ACBP). The Jiří Orten Award laureates include Michal Viewegh, Tereza Boučková, Petr Borkovec, Jaroslav Rudiš, Radek Malý, Petra Hůlová, Petra Soukupová, Marek Šindelka or Sára Vybíralová.

Ondřej Macl: I Love My Granny More Than I Love Young Women (Dauphin)

ANNOTATION: A poetry debut on the Czech-Slovak boundary. An almost Prevért-like reminiscence of the woman who has rocked even the most prolific heroes gently on her knees, the personal and the archetypal granny.

"The text was a follow-up to my university thesis about love, my intention being to make its conclusions more accessible to readers. It didn't have to be about a granny; and yet her vivacious cunning entered into a lucky match with the narrator's helplessness and his old soul. The book's unintended charm also rests in the fact that it combines Czech and Slovak, all in the 100th anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia," Ondřej Macl said.

Ondřej Macl (born 1989) studies author acting at the DAMU theatre faculty. He graduated in comparative literature at the Charles University, had a six-month internship at Paris-Sorbonne IV, and studied social work and journalism at the Masaryk University in Brno. He earns his living as an assistant to people with mental disadvantages and occasionally also as a literary critic. An edited version of his experimental juvenile text pmmpa was published in Dobrá adresa. His shorter literary texts or essays have also appeared in Tvar, A2, Psí víno, Souvislosti and also on Czech Radio - Vltava. He focuses especially on the tradition of European eroticism. In 2009 he came out victorious from the nationwide slam poetry competition.

Laudatio for the awarded book was written by Vratislav Maňák (see page 2 of the press release).

Electronic version of the press release, appraisal and complete information about the award are available from the Jiří Orten Award FB page, for more information about the award also go to www.cenajirihoortena.cz


Laudatio for the book I Love My Granny More Than I Love Young Women

A federal. Federal in capital letters followed by an enthusiastic exclamation mark was the first word my hand wrote as I read the book I Love My Granny More Than I Love Young Women - and only because one should go easy on exclamation marks had I not added more after the notes that followed. Because Ondřej Macl has presented Czech literature with a lot more than his slim paperback volume might suggest.

Ninety-six pages (and twenty-nine years of author's age) are enough to paint, for the reader, a three-dimensional picture of the ailing grandma Mária: a Slovak woman who never forsake her mother tongue, which means Slovakian also soaks into the body of the narrative; a simple woman, taught and educated by life, work at the Bata factory and pages of a women's magazine rather than the nation's schools; above all, however, a devout catholic, at first being staunchly resisted by the narrator on this point, only to eventually receive a caring monument of her grandson's affection.

The courage of choice merits acknowledgement in itself. The author has decided, without any veils or fancy detours, to focus on an archetype that has enjoyed an exceptional, canonical position not only in Czech literature but in the nation's culture as such for over a hundred and fifty years. At the very centre of his attention he positions a granny (and with her, in a wider sense, human old age) and constructs a world around her - a world of great history as well as that of the narrator's life, even though it is Mária who lets herself be locked in her room for her grandson... and not the other way around.

On top of that, the proposed thematisation is exceptionally good. The literary archetype, burdened by school-class experiences, is brought up to date by Ondřej Macl in his text in a confident, non-sentimental and 'everyday' manner. He allows it to blossom again and in a new way, here and now, especially for today with its distracted and clip-like culture. As a bonus he adds a non-conventional form that the readers will find stimulating.

Were we to juxtapose his text with the all too familiar sculptural group of the Grandmother in Ratibořice, we would see that where the sculptor Otto Guttfreund uses classical stone, Macl prefers the shards of a broken mirror. The grandson-narrator's confession of love is fragmented and the resulting literary collage balances - with skilful lightness - between diary notes and poems in prose, between seemingly everyday images and an intellectual meditation interlaced with references to an antique cultural infusion and classical philosophy, as if even here we were dealing with a tribute to a lost age. All this with the extra colour of an almost whimsical intertextual play and bountiful motifs from the New Testament; when Mária falls under the cross of old age, she falls three times.

In the shreds of the mirror from which Macl has constructed his Marian confessions we see not only the reflection of an original artist's work, generational differences and inter-generational relationships, but, making use of the granny's life story, told in the gasping way of old ladies, reflections of the entire Czechoslovak century from Masaryk to Havel. Is all this not too much for a form which from afar may appear as brief and perhaps even petty? Not a chance. This highly refined and truly affectionate message loses none of its consistency or effectiveness throughout; a sometimes laconic approach to narration only enhances this fact.

To conclude with, I admit: getting to know the portrait entitled I Love My Granny More Than Young Women represented for me as a reader an exceptional and emotionally intense experience; for several years has no writer presented us with such a beautiful confession of love, until my peer from the city of Hradec Králové had done so. As an author, I also felt the bitter pang of not having authored this convincing, non-trivial and formally inventive text myself. And just like Mária's grandson I also now hear in my ears Schubert's mournful Ave Maria, whose echoes will probably keep returning forever - a gift only enjoyed by books with great inner strength. All this thanks to the tenderness made present, all thanks to Ondřej Macl's revealed talent.

What lucky author.


Vratislav Maňák