Summer of Caprice
fiction, Czech studies
series: Modern Czech Classics
hardcover, 204 pp., 1. edition
translation: Corner, Mark
published: may 2006
recommended price: 480 czk
Vladislav Vancura's Summer of Caprice is commonly considered untranslatable. The playful style of the narrative, the level of language mastering and also the development of the metatextual context of the last 80 years together form this unmistakable classic of Czech literature. Looking from this perspective our English edition is an experiment, thanks to the translation by Mark Corner on one side which inevitably - as every other translation - is an interpretation, and the original illustrations by Jiri Grus and the typography by Zdenek Ziegler on the other side. However, it is an experiment aiming to present an understanding of Czech spirit, humour and way of life.
Vančura's tale follows four people – a colonel, a priest, a bathhouse owner and his wife – and how their lives are altered by the arrival of a magician-acrobat and his assistant. "Vančura is difficuIt, "Corner admits." But Caprice is a lovely, bittersweet book. It's about dreaming dreams."
Corner successfully captures the essence of this, particulary in the last lines of the daydreaming wife, who imagines the life of a traveling performer: "How wonderful to be thinking no more than three days ahead, to be peregrinating from one town to another. How marvelous to plan a performance from beginning to end and then to repeat it day after day before people not one of whom, besides ourselves, knows what's going to happen next."
The first edition of Vančura's Rozmarné léto included illustrations by that other great tragic Czech artist, Josef Čapek. Karolinum Press has also insisted on illustrating Comer's translations, with the renowned Adolf Born supplying illustrations for Saturnin, while Summer of Caprice is filled with the work of artist Jiří Grus, making for very attractive packaging.