Ploughshares into Swords is an expressionist anti-war novel in which Vančura tells the story of the denizens of the Ouhrov estate in language as baroque as the manor that ties them all together. The fragmented narrative introduces the reader to such characters as the Baron Danowitz, his sons, his French concubine, the farmhand František Horá, and the half-wit murderer Řeka in the autumn of 1913, before revealing their fates during the First World War. Spanning an area that stretches from the peaceful farmlands of Bohemia to the battlefields of Galicia, taking in the pubs of Budapest and the hospitals of Cracow, the novel constitutes an unsentimental and naturalistic approach to the war that created Czechoslovakia through a conscious subversion of the prophet Isaiah’s injunction that nations should beat their swords into ploughshares. Ploughshares into Swords is a stunning novel by one of Czech literature’s most important writers.
This modernist masterpiece, akin to the work of Isaac Babel and William Faulkner, is now available in English for the very first time.