Gargling With Tar

Jáchym Topol

Published: 6 June 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781846271625


Czechoslovakia, 1968. The Soviet troops have just invaded and, for the young orphan Ilya, life is suddenly turned on its head. At first there is relief that the mean-spirited nuns who ran his orphanage have been driven out by the Red Army, but as the children are left to fend for themselves, order and routine quickly give way to brutality and chaos, and Ilya finds himself drawn into the violence. When the troops return, the orphans are given military training and, with his first-hand knowledge of the local terrain, Ilya becomes guide to a Soviet tank battalion. A position which leads him ever deeper into a macabre world of random cruelty, moral compromise and lasting shame.

About the author

Image of Jáchym Topol

Jachym Topol is the leading Czech author of his generation. Famous in his youth as an underground poet and songwriter, since the Velvet Revolution he has written the books that have most successfully and imaginatively captured the dislocation brought about by the fall of communism. His novels include Gargling with Tar, which was published by Portobello in 2011, The Devil's Workshop (Portobello 2013), which won the 2013 English PEN Award for Writing in Translation, and Nightworks (Portobello 2014). More about the author


Gargling with Tar is a Czech Tin Drum set during the crushing of the Prague Spring of Topol's boyhood’



‘A crashing, free-wheeling tank ride of a book... Few Czech novelists have tackled 1968 head-on. Topol does so with bracing irreverence as well as pity Maya Jaggi

‘A dark, coming of age story, much praised’

‘A rich satire that lashes out at a number of targets’

‘A rich satire that lashes out at a number of targets’

‘An astute blend of the personal with the political ... a compassionate story with a worthwhile point to make’

‘Crawling out from under the shadow of Kundera, a new generation of Czech novelists is reaching the Anglo-Saxon world, and Topol is one of the most rated writers in Prague... It's a polished performance: first Lord of the Flies in the Bohemian countryside, then suddenly pure SvejkTibor Fischer

‘The Martin Amis-cum-Irvine Welsh of the post-1989 transition’ Boyd Tonkin

‘Topol has clearly emerged as one of the leading voices of post-'89 Czech literature... He evinces the Czech nation's burgeoning ability to confront and reclaim the tumultuous events of its history on its own terms rather than those of the history books’

‘Topol writes sincerely, passionately’ Cees Nooteboom

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