The story is an unvarnished chronicle of a young woman doing what she must to protect herself and her daughter.” —Historical Novel Society
“I think [Gerta] is beautiful and relevant. One of its basic themes is the expulsion of the German population from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, but as a whole the novel carries a much broader theme that seems crucial to me today—that the mutual problems between people and nations will not be solved simply by an acknowledgment, and not even by an apology. An apology is just the beginning. We can admit our own guilt, take it on ourselves, but an even more difficult and important step, which is not spoken of so much and for which there are no laws or entitlements, is forgiveness—whether toward others or toward ourselves. For me, Gerta is a book about forgiveness.” —Alice Nellis, director of the Czech TV adaptation of Gerta (English translation by Véronique Firkusny)
Winner of the Magnesia Litera Readers’ award; short-listed for the Jiří Orten Award, the Josef Škvorecký Award, and Magnesia Litera in the prose category.
“A great book…Immediately after reading, [Gerta] is unforgettable…Although she certainly did not plan for it, Kateřina Tučková wrote a novel that should be required reading.” —Jan Hübsch, Lidovky
“The central story of Gerta Schnirch can be captured in one word, the clichéd adjective strong. Its strength lies particularly in its vivid depiction of frightful experiences immediately after World War II, experiences resembling terrible nightmares. To achieve this, the author does not need cheap effects or explicit, detailed, or shocking descriptions.” —Petr Hrtánek, iLiteratura
“The author describes, with a great writing talent and empathy for human suffering, Gerta’s life from the moment she stood at her mother’s grave in 1942…We have read of various anabases, but few are as dreadful as the one depicted with deep pity by Kateřina Tučková. And so forcefully described as if she were Gerta, experiencing it all firsthand.” —Milena Nyklová, Knižní novinky
“[Gerta] masterfully fulfills one of the potential and important functions of literature. It is a means of self-reflection for a particular community, which is the Czech nation in this case.” —Pavel Janoušek, Host
Tuckova’s English-language debut slogs through the unfortunate life of a Czech-German woman after the liberation of Brno, Moravia, at the end of WWII. Gerta Schnirch is the daughter of a diffident Czech mother, who dies during the war, and an officious ethnically German father, who takes advantage of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia to rise socially and economically. When the war is over, the teenage Gerta—who has been raped by her father, Friedrich, and borne his daughter, Barbora—is among a group of German Czechs sent on a forced march to the west of the country by the Czechoslovak government, while Friedrich has vanished. Unlike many on the march who are raped or killed or die of dysentery, Gerta finds work as a farm laborer and secretary to the area administrator. When Barbora is five, Gerta returns with her to Brno, where she is dismayed to find Barbora stigmatized for her German surname, which sets Barbora back in school and drives a wedge between mother and daughter. While the central character is a bit one-note, Tuckova offers many rich period details; the scenes of Czech nationalist fervor are particularly wrenching, but they aren’t enough to sustain the novel. Though the lesser-known story of German expulsion is a worthy subject, this doesn’t quite do it justice. (Feb.)