Peter Krištúfek is a fiction writer, scriptwriter and film director. Since graduating from the Bratislava Academy of Performing Arts in film and TV directing he has pursued a career in film and television, making his literary debut with a collection of short fiction Nepresné miesto (An Inaccurate Place, 2002), followed by Voľným okom (In Plain Sight) in 2004 and Hviezda vystrihnutého záberu (The Star of the Edited Take) in 2005. He has published three novels, Šepkár (The Prompter, 2008), which was nominated for the “Prix du Livre Européen”; Blíženci a protinožci (Gemini and Antipodes, 2010) and Dom hluchého (The House of the Deaf Man, 2012), followed by Atlas zabúdania (The Atlas of Forgetting, 2013), a compilation of period documents covering the last 100 years of Slovak history. All three novels have been shortlisted for Anasoft Litera, Slovakia’s most prestigious literary prize; The House of the Deaf Man was published in Poland and translations into Dutch, Czech, Bulgarian, Arabic and Amharic are underway. Peter Krištúfek’s latest work is the novella Ema a smrtihlav (Emma and the Death’s-head Hawkmoth, 2014)
Peter Krištúfek’s website
Launch of The House of the Deaf Man on Parthian Books website
Times Literary Supplement review of The House of the Deaf Man
Buy The House of the Deaf Man at Amazon.co.uk
The House of the Deaf Man
I had always admired Father’s systematic and organized approach to things. For example, he was in the habit of getting up early in the morning and running up the nearby hill in a pair of breeches, a shirt buttoned up right up to the neck and a hat, taking a few deep breaths to warm up and then running back home. But first he would spend a little while on top of the hill watching the morning sun (if it was visible) as he took his deep breaths and told himself what a wonderful day it was and what great times we lived in.
On his way back he usually bumped into Father Peterský, the parish dean. He would greet my father respectfully and always seemed on the verge of asking him something important, apart from the usual gripes about his rheumatism and the early onset of arthritis.
Father thought he was just imagining it until one day he finally spat it out:
“Excuse my prying but… do you go to church, doctor?” Father nodded.
“That’s good, very good! Please forgive me, but I haven’t
noticed you at Holy Mass. No wonder, our church tends to get very full during the Sunday service, thank God!”
“But I don’t go to mass.”
Peterský was thunderstruck. “But isn’t it our Christian duty to attend Holy Mass every holy day? Still, it is good of you, doctor, to grace the church with your presence from time to time.”
“Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t go there to pray.”
“Don’t you? You’ll have to explain.”
“I go to church to examine corpses, Father. According to the regulations this should be done at the place of death. But then I would have to go all the way up the Volovec Mountain, to the little hamlets in the hills that can only be reached on foot. That way I would waste a lot of time. But all the dead are brought down and laid out at St. Giles anyway.”
Dean Peterský turned on his heels and left.
Peterský’s chaplain, Jablonický, sometimes accompanied my father on patient visits. They would drive down the paved road in the Praga and then ride up the hill on a hay cart. Father would examine the patient, the chaplain would perform the last rites if he was about to turn up his toes – as the locals would put it –, then they would down a shot of plum brandy proffered by the family and ride back to the car.
Once, they were nearly drafted into a communist march. On that occasion, Father had taken me along so I would have a day out. We had to wait in the car for the Labour Day parade to pass. The foreman from the timber-processing college made his apprentices join the parade and they were happy to get out of school early on such a lovely day. The officials rode slowly on borrowed bicycles with red crepe paper plaited into the wheels’ spokes. They were followed by trumpet players adorned with huge red sashes playing an excruciating version of the Internationale, since none of them could play properly. After the rally the chairman of the local Communist Party cell invited everyone to lunch at the Golden Stag to demonstrate how generous and close to the people the communists were.
Father turned his head in the direction of the march and mumbled to Chaplain Jablonický:
“The Lord sees everything and finds us very amusing!” “You shouldn’t say things like that, doctor!”