This small book is a valuable introduction for the English reader to the writings of Rudolf Dobiáš, born in Czechoslovakia in 1934 and spending seven years of his youth in forced labour imprisonment.
Dobiáš was released in 1960, but as an ex-convict struggled to find any but the most basic work. However when he turned 40 in 1975 opportunities as a writer came his way, though it was not until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that he was able to realise his true voice as a witness to his personal experience of the brutality of totalitarian suppression.
This book comprises short stories—some very short, others novellas—and a small selection of poetry. What may be lacking in extent is more than made up for in intensity, as the reader is exposed to the experience of the suffering and vulnerability of the individual in a society where neither honesty nor friendship have any reliable value.
As Michael Žantovský writes in his Foreword, “Dobiáš delves all the way to the bottom of the pain and the desperation experienced by human beings subjected to cruel injustice and inhuman conditions. There is no earthly redemption in his stories, no absolution for the torturers. The transcendence of the almost total darkness present in his works is made possible only through his deeply held faith in the world to come.”