London launch for new Petra Hůlová translation

A. M. Bakalar, Petra Hůlová, Peter Zusi, photo: Ian Willoughby

Three Plastic Rooms, a new English translation of the novel Umělohmotný třípokoj by Petra Hůlová, has just been published. Marking the book’s official launch, the author spoke at an event attended by local aficionados of Czech literature in London this week.

A. M. Bakalar,  Petra Hůlová,  Peter Zusi,  photo: Ian Willoughby
Petra Hůlová discussed Three Plastic Rooms in a moderated conversation before a small but rapt audience at a bookshop in central London on Tuesday evening.

The author later took a number of questions on the novel, in which a prostitute muses on her profession in language at once vulgar and poetic.

The book came out in Czech in 2006, but Hůlová says the subject matter means it still feels fresh to her.

“Even though it’s 10 years old, I still feel very much connected to it. That’s also I think because of the topic of gender, which I’ve worked with in two of my last novels, as well. So I still a very strong bond to that novel. It doesn’t really feel like something I would be done with.”

Photo: Jantar Publishing
Three Plastic Rooms has been translated by Alex Zucker, who Hůlová told the audience was the greatest translator of Czech into English today.

Its foreword was written by Dr. Peter Zusi of University College London, co-host of Tuesday’s conversation.

“One of the things that I think is fascinating about the novel is that it’s obviously engaging in difficult questions about gender, about sexual exploitation, about the position of women. I actually think it’s less about gender than about sexuality, which makes it more commonly human in a way. The way that the novel manages to create a discussion about something that is simply part of human nature makes it stand out.”

The English translation is out on Jantar Publishing, a London-based company bringing Czech and other Central European literature to international readers. It’s run by Michael Tate.

Petra Hůlová meets a reader at the launch of Three Plastic Rooms,  photo: Ian Willoughby
“My hopes for Three Plastic Rooms are that it will increase the profile of Petra Hůlová internationally, as an author. That process I think is starting later this evening in the LA Review of Books. We have high hopes for reviews in other mainstream media outlets in the UK and the USA, and all the blogs that usually review our books, as well. But honestly and truly I want it to sell hugely and for another translation to be done and for that to sell lots and lots as well.”