The remarkable debut novel from Marek Šindelka, already the recipient of his country’s major literary awards for poetry (Jiří Orten Prize) and prose (Magnesia Litera), Aberrant is a multifaceted work that mixes and mashes together a variety of genres and styles to create a heady concoction of crime story, horror story (inspired by the Japanese tradition of kaidan), ecological revenge fantasy, and Siberian shamanism. Nothing is what it seems. What appears to be human is actually a shell occupied by an alien spirit, or demon, and what appears to be an unassuming plant is an aggressive parasite that harbors a poisonous substance within, or manifests itself as an assassin, a phantom with no real substance who pursues his victims across Europe and through a post-apocalyptic Prague ravaged by floods. The blind see, and the seeing are blind. Plants behave like animals, and animals are symbionts with plants. Through these devices, Šindelka weaves a tale of three childhood friends, the errant paths their lives take, and the world of rare plant smuggling — and the consequences of taking the wrong plant — to show the rickety foundation of illusions on which our relationship to the environment, and to one another, rests. It is a world of aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes.

Publisher: Twisted Spoon Press

translated from the Czech by Nathan Fields

Artwork by Petr Nikl:

What others say:

Think Orlean’s The Orchid Thief on acid. It’s all kinds of funky, and in the hands of a lesser writer (and translator), it could have been little more than a hot, indulgent mess. But Šindelka never loses his thread, which is saying something about a novel wherein losing the thread is part of the point. We’re on shaky ground in 2017, people, and Šindelka’s world of ‘aberrations, anomalies, and mistakes’ feels unnervingly timely, and is enormously fun in the bargain. Everyone wins.

— M. Bartley Seigel, WWB Daily

“We must conclude that Šindelka, who made his debut as a successful poet, in this novel shows his extraordinary talent […] At the beginning Marek Šindelka makes use of the classic procedure of a detective story and then gradually transforms the text into horror […] The skilfulness of the young author is also proved in how he works with space and time.”

— A2

“The discovery is named ‘The mistake’. At first glance this novel is a thriller about dealers in rare plants, a raw story in Anglo-Saxon style full of dead bodies (Cormac MacCarthy is not the only name that comes to mind), but it is also a dark fairytale […] The ability to tell a story, the sense for the logic of fiction that does not contradict with the logic of reality, the well thought-out and in the end in a very natural way presented composition: this all promises and even confirms that in the person of Šindelka an unusual talent has come to the scene.”

— Právo

“Marek Šindelka offers wonderful lyrical passages, a story with a hint of romanticism, next to it an indication of detective and also a reflection of our modern time/ The Mistake is not build on one idea and one tone. It shows that the author has a varicoloured scale of voices […] Finally I must add that the reason why one has seriously look at “The Mistake”, is the fact that Marek Šindelka proves to have something that most modern authors don’t have, and that is: the familiarity with and interest in his subject. And therefore one can only look forward to his next book.”

— Lidové noviny

“Šindelka’s prose is written in a cultivated language with a wide palette of different styles – from the brief style of diaries to lyrical fantasy, from the cruel description of the dirtiness of city life to vivid drawings of natural organisms (a mixture of beauty and horror), from gripping storytelling to lyricism.”

— Tvar

The plant world constitutes a specific milieu in the novel and recalls [Michal] Ajvaz’s The Other City, which is visible only to those who wish to see it …

— iLiteratura.cz

Aberrant by Marek Šindelka is a brilliantly written and ingeniously constructed novel … when finished the reader is left with a liberating feeling of catharsis befitting the dramas of antiquity and medieval legends.

— Czech Radio