Tučková’s biggest novel gets English publication as The Last Goddess

Kateřina Tučková

The most successful novel to date by leading Czech writer Kateřina Tučková is coming out in English this Sunday. Tracing the story of a community of women in the White Carpathians, The Last Goddess is – characteristically for the author – based on extensive historical research.

The novel Žítkovské bohyně (literally the Žítková goddesses) was originally published in Czech in 2012, becoming a major hit. It sold well north of 100,000 copies and was translated into numerous languages.

A decade later it is finally coming out in English as The Last Goddess.

Photo: Amazon Crossing

Author Kateřina Tučková is known for the extensive historical research that goes into her major works.

In the case of The Last Goddess she heard about the community of female healers that inspired it from historian David Kovařík.

“He told me about the women who lived in the White Carpathians and were followed by all regimes which came across Czechoslovakia, which means by the Nazis and by the Communists. Also that their art of healing lasted centuries – and finally the Communists were the power that stopped their work, or their helping people. That attracted me and I went to the White Carpathians to find the story and it was really fascinating, what I found out.”

The Last Goddess is translated by Andrew Oakland, who is based in Tučková’s home city of Brno. As somebody who spent a great deal of time with the novel, the Englishman is very familiar with its strengths.

“The very strong sense of place. The very powerful, direct storytelling, the pace of the storytelling, the research, the verified sources that it includes; you feel that you are reading something that has a true basis in history. The element of mystery, of course, is very important to its success, I would imagine. The characters are terrific – the very, very strong protagonist and a support cast.”

Czech version of The Last Goddess | Photo: Marián Vojtek,  Czech Radio

There are supernatural elements in The Last Goddess, though that shouldn’t put off readers who are by nature sceptical, says Tučková. After all, so is the book’s main character, Dora Idesová.

“She is a scientist. She is an ethnographer, or an anthropologist, let’s say. She is from the district. She is the granddaughter of one of the goddesses and she’s very sceptical. So she tried to explain everything through anthropology, science, common sense. But still she had to face some facts which are unexplainable. And then she found out a lot of materials in the archives of the Nazis or the archives of the secret service of the Communist regime. And there are things there that play like a mosaic all together – something can explain something else, but some things still stay unexplainable. I don’t want to reveal the end, but even sceptical people can read this story through Dora’s eyes, I think with pleasure.”

The Last Goddess is published on May 1 by the Amazon Crossing imprint in the United States.

Meanwhile Tučková’s new novel in Czech, Bílá voda, is well on its way to being one of the books of the year in her native country.

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