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12 May 2016 19:00

Tomáš Zmeškal & Hamid Ismailov in conversation with Misha Glenny

Tomáš Zmeškal’s debut novel Love Letter in Cuneiform is a family saga - a story of marriage, love and destiny set in Czechoslovakia between the 1940s and 1990s. Josef meets his wife, Květa, before the WWII at a public lecture and she marries him instead of their mutual friend Hynek. But when her husband is arrested and unlawfully imprisoned, Květa gives herself to Hynek in return for help and advice. Exploring what is not spoken, what cannot be said and the repercussions of silence, Zmeškal's tale, told as a mosaic of events, exposes the larger, ongoing struggle of postcommunist Eastern Europe to come to terms with suffering when catharsis is denied.

Hamid Ismailov’s latest book The Dead Lake, long-listed for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, is a haunting Russian tale about environmental legacy of the Cold War. It tells a story of a gifted violinist Yerzhan growing up on the Kazakh steppes, the Soviet test ground for atomic weapons. Yerzhan falls in love with the neighbour’s daughter and to impress her, he dives into a forbidden lake. Its radioactive water stops his growth and he becomes trapped in a boy’s body while the girl he loves grows into a beautiful woman. Drawing attention to atomic tests taking place between 1945 and 1989 in Kazakhstan, Ismailov creates a parable of modern arms race impacting on people’s lives and tradition.

Hamid Ismailov and Tomáš Zmeškal will read from their work and discuss literature and politics with writer and former Central Europe correspondent for Guardian and BBC, Misha Glenny.

Tickets: £5, tickets available in-store, by telephone 020 7851 2400 or by email piccadilly@waterstones.com

Born in 1954 in Kyrgyzstan, Hamid Ismailov moved to Uzbekistan as a young man. He writes both in Russian and Uzbek and his novels and poetry have been translated into many European languages, including German, French and Spanish. In 1992 he was forced to flee to the UK because of his ‘unacceptable democratic tendencies’. He now works for the BBC World Service.

Tomáš Zmeškal (b.1966) left Czechoslovakia in 1987 for London. He studied English language and literature at King’s College but returned to Prague after the collapse of communism in 1998 to work as a lecturer, translator, interpreter and teacher of creative writing. He has published two novels, one work of literary non-fiction, radio plays and short stories. He has won the EU Prize for literature for his debut novel Love Letter in Cuneiform.

Published by Peirene Press in February 2014
Translated by Andrew Bromfield
Published by Yale University Press in May 2016
Translated by Alex Zucker


Part of The Stories We Tell: 2016 European Literature Festival, organized by EUNIC, initiated and coordinated by the Czech Centre.




Supported by




Waterstones Piccadilly, 203 - 206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD


12 May 2016 19:00


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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