golden

The latest addition to my website is Michal Ajvaz‘s Zlatý věk (The Golden Age). This is a superbly original novel about an island off the coast of Africa, which though it has had contact with the rest of the world, has a completely different way of doing things. The narrator, an unnamed Czech, gives us a description of a people who generally shun technology, have no crime and whose main activity is enjoying the play of light on water. They mine precious stones from the back of their houses, set into a hill, which they sell to visitors. They have only one book (and only one copy of that book), which anyone can write in and which is thoroughly post-modernist, in that it seems to be a series of nested stories which goes off on all sorts of tangents. History, law, culture in the broadest sense and even relationships seem all relatively unimportant to them. The narrator uses the term effervescent chaos to describe their way of life but, whatever you call it, Ajvaz is clearly showing that there is a different way to look at the world from our conventional way and gives us a first-class novel to show this.