Running: A Novel

Running: A Novel

by Jean Echenoz

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Following his brilliant portrait of Maurice Ravel, Jean Echenoz turns to the life of one of the greatest runners of the twentieth century, and once again demonstrates his astonishing abilities as a prose stylist. Set against the backdrop of the Soviet liberation and post–World War II communist rule of Czechoslovakia, Running— a bestseller in France—follows the famed career of Czech runner Emil Zátopek: a factory worker who, despite an initial contempt for athletics as a young man, is forced to participate in a footrace and soon develops a curious passion for the physical limits he discovers as a long-distance runner.

Zátopek, who tenaciously invents his own brutal training regimen, goes on to become a national hero, winning an unparalleled three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and breaking countless world records along the way. But just as his fame brings him upon the world stage, he must face the realities of an increasingly controlling regime.

Written in Echenoz’s signature style—elegant yet playful—Running is both a beautifully imagined and executed portrait of a man and his art, and a powerful depiction of a country’s propagandizing grasp on his fate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595586674
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 12/08/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 1285
File size: 192 KB

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Running 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Running" is a fictionalized account of the life of the Emil Zátopek (1922-2000), who reluctantly took up competitive running in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia as a young man, and became one of the premier long-distance runners of the mid-20th century, winning gold and silver medals at the 1948 Olympics, three gold medals at the 1952 Olympics, and setting world records in nine different events.Zátopek's running style was most unorthodox, which Echenoz describes in detail in this brilliant passage:"Emil, you'd think he was excavating, like a ditch digger, or digging deep into himself, as if he were in a trance. Ignoring every time-honored rule and any thought of elegance, Emil advances laboriously, in a jerky, tortured manner, all in fits and starts. He doesn't hide the violence of his efforts, which shows in his wincing, grimacing, tetanized face, constantly contorted by a rictus quite painful to see. His features are twisted, as if torn by appalling suffering; sometimes his tongue sticks out. It's as if he had a scorpion in each shoe, catapulting him on. He seems far away when he runs, terribly far away, concentrating so hard he's not even there¿except that he's more than than anyone else; and hunkered down between his shoulders, on that neck always leaning in the same direction, his head bobs along endlessly, lolling and wobbling from side to side."Videos of several of Zátopek's races on YouTube are readily available, which would make any running coach cringe in horror.Zátopek is hailed as a national hero, and joins the Czech army, which uses him as a tool to promote communism. He is restricted from traveling abroad during the Gottwald regime, and his comments to the press are censored and rewritten by the party. However, he has a good life, with a happy marriage to another Olympic champion, and a good career, until public comments in support of Alexander Dub¿ek during the Prague Spring of 1968 led to his dismissal from the Communist Party and internal exile.The descriptions of Zátopek's running style and accounts of his most famous races were excellent, and the highlights of the book for me. His life in communist Czechoslovakia is covered in lesser detail, especially his exile after 1968. I would have liked more detail into his personal life outside of running, but I suspect that these details were not available to Echenoz or were sanitized by communist censors. However, "Running" was a fabulous and quick read, and is highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago