Material Fatigue

Two brothers, the younger one 13 years of age, the older about 20, are fleeing from an unnamed country (one can imagine though it is Syria) that is suffering from war. They lost their home and family. With the help of professional traffickers they will be smuggled into Europe. Immediately at the start of their long journey they get separated. The younger brother, who stays without a name throughout the book and is called “the boy”, only has a small piece of paper with the name of a town somewhere in the north (of Germany – probably) where his older brother, Amir, is heading.

The book opens with the scene when the young boy climbs over the fence of a refugee camp somewhere in Europe. He has stayed in the camp for several months without seeing any changed for the better for him. Now he decides to flee, only carrying a rucksack with some clothes and a knife, and without any food. It is mid winter and he has to make his way through snow storms, fields, woods and hills. His aim is to get to this place in the north where he would join his older brother. In a series of alternating chapters we follow how both brothers fare on their separate journeys.

One can say that the novel is written from a physical point of view, it is more about the reactions of the body than of the mind. It is as if the body speaks. Next to that the book is not moralizing, it is not a political or social pamphlet, it doesn’t point fingers. Europe is an anonymous, impersonal feature.

The reader is merely following in the footsteps of both brothers, presented in alternating perspective, on their anabasis from their war stricken home to a new future. Told without any accompanying comments or explanations by the author or the narrator, the events are pure: it is up to the reader to draw conclusions.

An unadorned story, but told with strong imagination. The sufferings, the feelings and impressions, especially of the younger brother, are described very empathetic. And this is mainly due to the original, raw, succinct poetic style of Šindelka, like we already know from his previous work, for instance Map of Anna.

Translation rights for “Material Fatigue” have been sold to Netherlands, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia. For more information please visit: www.pluh.org

Buy (Czech edition)

Artwork and design by Nikola Klímová:

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