Ploughshares into Swords
[Ploughshares into Swords]
hardcover, 280 pp., 1. edition
translation: Short, David
published: december 2021
recommended price: 400 czk
“The terrible bow was drawn taut. Men had let their powers be taken captive and had become the stooges of governments, they had become drinkers of the blood that fuelled their rage, they had become angels of evil, devils who spilled blood like water. A raven with shreds of corpses still stuck to its claws was perched on their shoulder and yet they saw nothing and understood nothing. The orders of platoon commanders were their reasoning and a ghastly rough and tumble was their home, each such home perishing piecemeal as bayonets made mincemeat of arms rising to take aim. Death was a day that had no dusk and horrors became the wont of armies.”
Ploughshares into Swords is an expressionist anti-war novel in which Vančura tells the story of the denizens of the Ouhrov estate in language as baroque as the manor that ties them all together. The fragmented narrative introduces the reader to such characters as the Baron Danowitz, his sons, his French concubine, the farmhand František Horá, and the half-wit murderer Řeka in the autumn of 1913, before revealing their fates during the First World War. Spanning an area that stretches from the peaceful farmlands of Bohemia to the battlefields of Galicia, taking in the pubs of Budapest and the hospitals of Cracow, the novel constitutes an unsentimental and naturalistic approach to the war that created Czechoslovakia through a conscious subversion of the prophet Isaiah’s injunction that nations should beat their swords into ploughshares. Ploughshares into Swords is a stunning novel by one of Czech literature’s most important writers.
This modernist masterpiece, akin to the work of Isaac Babel and William Faulkner, is now available in English for the very first time.