“It grew dark and a mist spread over the countryside like a curtain. We were at the Bohemian border. Customs control, shouting, the din of the station, and finally the train moved on with a monotonous drone. ‘It was right here that I met Teresa Elinson,’ Marta said, in the corner of the cozy compartment. I replied: ‘Who is Teresa Elinson? I don’t remember you ever mentioning her.’ ‘No, never. It was a kind of adventure. That time too the train hurtled into the dark, where red sparks flew and lights flashed, scattering in the mist...’” Thus begins the story by Růžena Jesenská that gives this book its name. In this anthology, Kathleen Hayes has selected and translated eight stories by Czech female authors at the turn of the 19th and 20th century: a period of female political emancipation and impressive literary development. All of the writers included in the present volume were recognized in their own day and constitute a cross-section of the literary styles of the period. Tilschová’s “A Sad Time” is written in a Naturalist style; Jesenská’s “A World Apart” presents themes and motifs that appealed to the Decadents. Malířová’s “The Sylph” is both diaristic and satirical, while Svobodová’s ironical “A Great Passion”, with its rural setting and folklore motifs, reminds one of the writings of Karel Jaromír Erben. Preissová’s short story may be read as a celebration of folk culture. Benešová’s “Friends” is interesting for its psychological presentation of a child’s point of view and its implicit criticism of anti-Semitism. The book is accompanied by the biographies of each author and an introduction by Kathleen Hayes.
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