The Devil's Workshop

Jáchym Topol

Published: 6 June 2013
Trade Paperback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 160 pages
ISBN: 9781846274176

Translated by Alex Zucker


'The devil had his workshop here in Belarus. The deepest graves are in Belarus. But nobody knows about them'

A young boy grows up in Terezín - an infamous fortress town with a sinister past. Together with his friends he plays happily in this former Nazi prison, scouting the tunnels for fragments of history under the careful eye of one of its survivors, Uncle Lebo, until one day there is an accident, and he is forced to leave.

Returning to Terezín many years later, he joins Lebo's campaign to preserve the town, but before long the authorities impose a brutal crack-down, chaos ensues, and the narrator finds himself fleeing to Belarus, where fresh horrors drive him ever closer to the evils he had hoped to escape.

Bold, brilliant and blackly comic, The Devil's Workshop paints a deeply troubling portrait of two countries dealing with their ghosts and asks: at what point do we consign the past to history?

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


‘A blackly comic novel about the Holocaust industry’ John Dugdale



‘A miracle of compression, its scope greater than ought to be possible for a book of its length. Topol [is] one of the most original and compelling European voices at work today’ Daniel Medin

‘Alex Zucker does a remarkably fine job of conveying Topol's idiosyncratic slang and suggestions of dialect without resorting to affectation... Zucker has brought both sides of Topol, his irony and his sincerity, to us intact’ Madeleine LaRue

‘Blending fact and fiction, Topol's darkly comic novel, lucidly translated by Alex Zucker, is a hard-hitting exploration of two nations bedevilled by past horrors’ Lucy Popescu

‘Entertaining and extremely beautiful... An outstanding translation... [Topol is] a master writer’

‘Full of Gothic horror that frighten[s] you to your senses and make[s] you pay attention to history and its very real scars’ Póló Muirí

‘Horrible, repelling, unusual, and very very good... Topol doesn't put a foot wrong... [He] has created something very original, whilst also managing to make the horrors of history relevant to the present day... Brilliant’

‘Humour so treacly black it almost chokes you’ Jane Housham

‘Jáchym Topol cuts through the blur of brutal tragedy and horrific memory with an acerbic sharp edge and the literary know-how of a novelist who more than understands the power of language. Startling, darkly comic, and deeply, deeply moving’ Lee Rourke, author

‘Tautly written and provocative... An intriguing and often disturbing examination of the multifaceted nature of evil... An accomplished and highly assured novel from a writer going from strength to strength and fully deserving of his growing reputation’

‘This is a funny, fabulous, bleak and speedy novel. Anyone who has read W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz would surely find The Devil's Workshop an intriguing counterpart’ Rebecca Gowers, author

‘Topol deserves your attention... he conveys verve, intellect, and, beneath the trot of his clipped or galloping prose, tenderness’

Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts