The Lily of the Valley

Honoré de Balzac

The Lily of the Valley (Le Lys dans la Vallée) is a long confession of a passionate love of a young man, Félix de Vandenesse, for a mature woman, Madame de Mortsauf. Unlike many others novels from La Comédie humaine that serve as a critique of social, political and moral conditions of his time, The Lily of the Valley depicts a timeless private theme of first love and its agony.

Balzac

Stefan Zweig

Zweig devoted ten years of research and writing to Balzac, which he regarded as his crowning achievement. This late work reads like a picaresque novel, with Balzac’s quest for “a woman with a fortune” and recurrent episodes of the author chasing an elusive pot of gold driving the
story. This biography of one classic author by another is filled with Zweig’s characteristic psychological insights. He portrays the energy and “exuberance of imagination” that produced some two thousand characters in La comédie humaine, as well as the daily details of the coffee-chugging writer’s life, his manic writing schedule, method of correcting proofs, dealing with publishers and reviewers, signing contracts, doing marketing and publicity.

Agnessa

Mira Yakovenko, Agnessa Mironova

The recorded oral memories of Agnessa Mironova (1903-1982) is a must book for anybody who wants to know what was a personal life like under Stalinism. For the first time ever, Agnessa’s notes open the secret door into living rooms and boudoirs of Stalin’s “hangmen”, top-ranked Soviet secret police officers during the purges of 1930-40ies. However, anyone who reads this book with the intention to better understand the past, will also discover an outstanding female character, a proud predator, who reveals all truths about herself frankly and without keeping anything back. A life story of this unique woman, so beautiful and repulsive at once, has developed during the most terrible and bloody period of modern history.

Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook

Edward N. Luttwak

Coup d’État astonished readers when it first appeared in 1968 because it showed, step by step, how governments could be overthrown. Translated into sixteen languages, it has inspired anti-coup precautions by regimes around the world. In addition to these detailed instructions, Edward Luttwak’s revised handbook offers an altogether new way of looking at political power—one that considers, for example, the vulnerability to coups of even the most stable democracies in the event of prolonged economic distress.

Od prvního cizinci

Iva Tajovská

Iva Tajovská’s new novel Od prvního cizinci (The Dissolution) draws from the events of the 1990s and deals with the disintegration of states and families that occurred during the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the civil war in Yugoslavia. In this strong and straightforward story the characters are confronted with loneliness, aging and alienation in times that were supposed to be peaceful, but instead brought new guilts and rages.

The Girls of Slender Means

Muriel Spark

“Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions.”

In the May of Teck Club – a London hostel ‘three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit’ – the young lady residents do their best to act as if the war never happened. They practice elocution, and jostle one another over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. But behind the girls’ giddy literary and amorous peregrinations they hide some tragically painful secrets and wounds.

Blue Blood

Yuri Buida

Buida’s Blue Blood (2011) tells the story of Ida Zmoiro, whom Buida based on Soviet actress Valentina Karavaeva. “Actress” sounds glamorous, but Ida’s life is filled with pain: a brief marriage to an Englishman, an accident that ruins her film career by making her face look like a broken plate, the Stalinist repression, and the sudden appearance of a former husband’s wife and child. As Ida likes to say, “happiness makes you fat”. In this dark, Soviet-era transformation of a fairy tale, Buida creates his own myth of a bright soul in a world inhabited by drunkards, madmen and crooks. 

The Double Chapel

Alena Wagnerová

The Double Chapel is an intimate confession about the childhood and adolescence of a young woman, about relationships between parents and children. The novel is powerful in its intensity; although it is an introspective prose, a current of internal dialogues and memories of the main heroine, the reader seas a true and profound drama of one family.

Madame Curie

Ève Curie

Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867–1934) was the first woman scientist to win worldwide fame, and indeed, one of the great scientists of this century. Winner of two Nobel Prizes (for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911), she performed pioneering studies with radium and contributed profoundly to the understanding of radioactivity.

Becoming George Orwell: Life and Letters, Legend and Legacy

John Rodden

Is George Orwell the most influential writer who ever lived? Yes, according to John Rodden’s provocative book about the transformation of a man into a myth. Rodden does not argue that Orwell was the most distinguished man of letters of the last century, nor even the leading novelist of his generation, let alone the greatest imaginative writer of English prose fiction. Yet his influence since his death at midcentury is incomparable. No other writer has aroused so much controversy or contributed so many incessantly quoted words and phrases to our cultural lexicon, from “Big Brother” and “doublethink” to “thoughtcrime” and “Newspeak.” Becoming George Orwell is a pathbreaking tour de force that charts the astonishing passage of a litterateur into a legend.

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