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The Lake

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"The Lake is a bewitching, beguiling, terrifying and shocking portal into a world gone wrong, a realm in which tenderness and courage come up against brutality and indifference, in which fellow-feeling and communality are undercut by self-interest and folly – and in which small gestures nonetheless keep the flame of hope alive. It is utterly propulsive, immersive and unique, and deserves to become a European classic, to be read by many generations to come." – Toby Lichtig, EBRD Literature Prize judge


Translated by Alex Zucker

A fishing village at the end of the world. A lake that is drying up and, ominously, pushing out its banks. The men have vodka, the women troubles, the children eczema to scratch at. Born into this unforgiving environment, Nami, a young boy, embarks on a journey with nothing but a bundle of nerves, a coat that was once his grandfather’s and the vague idea of searching for his mother, who disappeared from his life at a young age. To uncover the greatest mystery of his life, he must sail across and walk around the lake and finally dive to its bottom.

The Lake is a raw account of life in a devastated land and the harsh, primitive circumstances under which people fight to survive.

A dystopian page-turner about the coming of age of a young hero, which won the 2017 EU Prize for Literature.


Awarded with the Magnesia Litera Prize as Best Book of 2016.

 "The Lake feels less like it takes place in a post-USSR past than it does a post-apocalyptic future of complete climate collapse. Nami’s country might be fiction, but its implications are terrifyingly real." Wales Arts Review

‘[T]he fresh water of Czech literature.’ – Hospodářské Noviny

‘[O]ne of the most remarkable books of the last years.' – Mladá Fronta dnes

‘A criticism of the Soviet Union, of extinction, of the modern world. Written in such a colourful way that one at times seems the stand in front of Andrej Tarkovsky’s camera.’ – Krájské Listy

'a fertile imagination, phenomenal literary talent and a gripping narrative led to the creation of The Lake, which has won several prizes, most recently the EBRD Literature Prize 2023 ... We see everything through Nami’s eyes, and the beauty of the novel (it is beautifully written) lies in his authentic voice and observations.' – Rosie Goldsmith, European Literature Network

'Bellová’s gripping depiction of life under forced occupation shows how despite the utter bleakness of their reality, people like Nami can still find ways to keep on going, as did many under communism and so many do now under other oppression. In the face of evil, there is nothing more radical than preserving one's humanity.' – Anna West, APOFENIE 


BIANCA BELLOVÁ (b. 1970) is a Czech translator, interpreter and writer with Bulgarian roots. Her novel Mrtvý muž (Dead Man, 2011) received widespread critical acclaim and has been translated into German. Her latest novel, Jezero (The Lake, 2016), won the EU Prize for Literature and will be published in more than ten languages.

ALEX ZUCKER is a translator from Czech whose translations include novels by J. R. Pick, Petra Hůlová, Jáchym Topol, Magdaléna Platzová, Tomáš Zmeškal, Josef Jedlička, Heda Margolius Kovály, Patrik Ouředník, and Miloslava Holubová. He has also translated stories, plays, subtitles, young adult and children’s books, song lyrics, reportages, essays, poems, and an opera.