The Naked (2008)

The Naked (2008)
Books for youth
Patmos/ Sauerländer

The Naked is a novel about growing up. A hot summer, Berlin and the rural, idyllic borderland between the Czech Republic and Saxony in Germany – this is the backdrop to the story that is not told as a linear sequence of events. Five young people find themselves at a crossroads. Whether they want to or not, they must decide how to continue. Sometimes their paths intersect, sometimes they run parallel, while at other times they simply bypass each other. Without realizing it, they are asking themselves the same questions and facing similar problems.

It is, in fact, five individual stories that make sense only when considered together. They all deal with one single quantity, known and, at the same time, unknown: the generation that is growing up today. Although Sylva has an above-average IQ, she fails to live up to the expectations of contemporary society. She is unrestrained, instinctive. Her Czech father and her German mother live separately but are still undecided about divorce. Sylva feels split by her constant shuttling between the two of them. The time she spends in Berlin is like a walk through a jungle with random events and fateful encounters determining which trail is taken.

Niklas is on the verge of adulthood but still a long way from maturity. His love for Evita gradually turns his life into a mad carousel of drug abuse which is difficult to jump off of. Although Evita lives right in the middle of a big city, her own private world removes her further and further from reality. Instead of attaining her dream of freedom, she succumbs, step by step, to inescapable addiction – not only to the drugs but also to the people that provide them. At the time she meets Niklas she is unable to reciprocate fully his feelings of affection for her.

Filip presents himself to the world as an intellectual, but an unplanned demonstration of environmentalists, his encounter with the energetic Berenika, and a conflict with the police, which ends in a brawl and his arrest, all of this turns his world of adopted values upside down during one turbulent evening. In the end he is capable of a splendidly crazy gesture of nakedness, and when he has offended everyone, it’s over.
Robin has his circle of friends and does not allow anyone else to enter. His aloofness dates from Velkej Tresky, to be more exact from one evening in a mountain cabin when he is accused of raping one of his classmates. Despite the fact that his father, a lawyer, succeeds in having the charges dropped thereby rescuing his son from this delicate situation, Robin, after this experience, becomes very reserved and is unable to establish new relationships. Meeting Sylva is a milestone on his journey to maturity.

The Naked is a story that captures the ordinary life of today’s seventeen-year-olds. The influence of technology and civilization clashes with the elementary needs of adolescents, with their natural longing for authentic contact, and leads to inevitable conflicts. With some of the protagonists this takes place below the surface, more or less unobserved, while with others this ends in rebellion or drama.

German Edition – Patmos/ Sauerländer 2008
Czech Edition – Paseka 2009

“Won’t they notice that we aren’t in the dining hall?”

“They’ll notice, but it’ll take a while.”

Melinda’s lips. Her Norwegian sweater.

“Can I take it off for you?”

“Do you love me?”

Dark, outside the window glowing snow is piling up.

“Why’d you turn out the light?”

“I’m embarrassed. I’ve never been with a boy… like this.”

The sweater’s off. T-shirt too. Only the bra is left.

”Can I unfasten it for you?”

”Do you love me Robin?”

At last, hands on bare skin. It’s warm, supple. She shivers.

“You cold?”

“No. Are you?”

“Not either.”

A feeling of mounting haste. They’re already at the bed – whispering continuously.

“Do you love me?”

The contours of their heads on the pillow – nothing else can be seen in the dark. Without vision the other senses become sharper. Melinda’s skin has the smell of bitter almonds. It doesn’t taste that way.

“What was that?”

“I licked you.”

“Aren’t you a little weird?”

“I wanted to know what you taste like. What’s weird about that?”

When he touches her thigh, sparks fly. He snuggles closer.

“Robin, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid? Of me?”

He bursts out with a forced laugh. But there’s nothing for him to be laughing about. He’s ready to explode.

“Don’t laugh. Do you love me?”

He can’t even whisper any more. Everything is aching – the pressure inside him is unbearable. Why does it have to be like this? All this stress? He’d like to caress, taste, let her hands glide over him – he’d like to gradually remove the barriers. Instead of that he rashly makes a move for the goal.

“Wait… Robin, don’t… I don’t want to. Stop it! Robin!”
Stop it? Now? That’s impossible! She can’t be serious! She’s just saying that. It’s her first time. Just as it is for him.

“Don’t worry, everything’ll be all right,” he tries to calm her down, but he himself is anything but calm. He hears his voice croaking. It feels like a storm that has knocked the wind out of him. Blown everything away. And you cannot do anything about it.
A sudden scream.

“Why don’t you give me an answer? Is it such a problem for you to answer one little question?”

“What…,” a deep breath like a hurricane, “…what question?”

“I asked you whether you love me!” She pushes him away. “Do you love me?”

“No.” She wants an answer from me so she’ll get one. “I don’t love you.!”
And once again, right into her ear. He shouts just as loud. In case she hadn’t heard. So she’d finally stop all that questioning.

“I don’t love you Melinda! I – do – not – love – you!”


translation: P.O. Lawson

Further information

Curriculum Vitae

Born 1953 in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia. Has lived and worked in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic   1972 Graduation from Neruda Grammar School in Prague. Not allowed to enrol at…

List of awards and other distinctions

  The Summer Wears Donkey´s Ears * The book was on the 1985 List of Best German Children´s Books; it was also awarded The Prize of the Czech Publisher Albatros 1996. The Season of…