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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Of Kids & Parents

Emil Hakl

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To purchase Of Kids & Parents

Title: Of Kids & Parents
Author: Emil Hakl
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 153 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: Of Kids & Parents - US
Of Kids & Parents - UK
Of Kids & Parents - Canada
Of Kids & Parents - India
Treffpunkt Pinguinhaus - Deutschland
  • Czech title: O rodičích a dětech
  • Translated by Marek Tomin
  • Of Kids & Parents was made into a film in 2008, directed by Vladimír Michálek

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine, melancholy conversational father and son novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent A 27/6/2008 Boyd Tonkin
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2009 Michael Pinker

  From the Reviews:
  • "Anyone who has ever crawled from pub to pub in Prague -- or anyone who wants to -- should read this utterly beguiling novel of uproarious surfaces and melancholy depths. (...) His brimming glass of bitter gags lets us sip six decades of disaster. (...) The father-son dialogue, beautifully caught by Marek Tomin's dancing translation, is a delight." - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  • "Their highly entertaining extended conversation, scrounging up anecdotes and memories of relatives, friends, and acquaintances, especially women (plenty of them); episodes from their shared past; and jokes (Ivan's -- as he notes, his son doesn’t tell jokes), punctuated every so often by Honza’s childhood recollections and occasional reprimands and threats from his inner "demon," blends an intimate portrait of the state of the personal relationship of father and son with a ribald slice of contemporary Czech life." - Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Of Kids & Parents is a rambling little novel in which a seventy-one-year-old father and his forty-two-year-old son -- the narrator -- amble around contemporary Prague, with frequent stops for refreshments, usually of the alcoholic sort. Father and son Beneš (the author's actual name, presumably not so coincidentally) talk about all sorts of things, including the past -- the family had lived in Croatia and only moved back to Bohemia in 1945 --, women, and life in general.
       The son explains the appeal of Prague:

     "Life unfolds here as if it were a comedy by Frič, or some touchingly naff Italian porno ... Like the assassination of Heydrich performed by a children's puppet theatre ..."
       He can't imagine living elsewhere:
     "Spending a week or two in some other town is more than enough time for me to see that I'd go bonkers from the nothingness, the lack of ambiguity, the seriousness of people's lives there.
       It is this vision of Prague that Hakl also wants to convey, where things don't manage to be quite so serious and where you can always count on ambiguity.
       As they wend their way through town -- and down shots of various spirits -- the two men reminisce and wonder about their lives. The father dredges up old family history, including those stories from before his son's time, in Croatia, and both men wonder (and express their doubts) about the women in their (and each other's) lives. A variety of episodes and experiences are recounted, adding up, surprisingly quickly, to a small portrait of one family in (what is now) the Czech Republic over the past decades.
       The account is tinged with the melancholy of aging, and time and opportunities lost. Alone in the bathroom at one point the son loses himself in thought, playing out another conversation in his mind:
     Go on, feel sorry for yourself ..., the little demon chimed in. Feel sorry for yourself, you cripple ... ! Sorry ... ! Look forward for once, not backwards ... ! Look ahead ... !
     "But nothing's there," I said quietly.
     Nor anywhere else ..., the demon screamed: Not behind you either ... ! Ha, ha ... ! Ha, ha ! Hahahahahaha ... !
       What there is is in the present -- even if that feels like he's just treading water (or pounding the pavement, or walking in circles). The past can't quite be let go, the feelings of loss -- of actual loss, and of missed opportunities -- still linger, the present and what they have (such as these father-son strolls every few weeks) only half-heartedly embraced.
       If they don't exactly drown their sorrows in the hard stuff, they certainly lubricate their tongues with it; tellingly, however, the son opts for a sobering double espresso in the book's final scene.
       Dominated by leisurely and meandering conversation, Of Kids & Parents is an agreeable melancholy tour of contemporary Prague and all the baggage that a father and son lug around in it. A nice little story.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 October 2010

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Of Kids & Parents: Reviews: Of Kids & Parents - the film: Emil Hakl: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Czech author Emil Hakl (actually: Jan Beneš) was born in 1958.

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