cover image The Movement

The Movement

Petra Hůlová, trans from Czech by Alex Zucker. World Editions, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64286-100-6

Hůlová (Three Plastic Rooms) offers a thought-provoking and disturbing dystopian tale of a feminist revolution. The Czech Republic’s “Old World” government has fallen to “The Movement,” a women-led group dedicated to decoupling men’s sexual desires from their views of women’s bodies. Unisex tracksuits are the only permitted fashion and plastic surgery is among the nation’s gravest crimes. The narrator is a guard at The Institute, a reeducation facility that aims to cure men of turning “human beings into objects whose exterior is elevated at the expense of what lies within.” Tactics there include electro-shock therapy and forcing patients to masturbate to photos of older women. While many men decry this as torture, “cured” men share their gratitude on TV. The majority of the novel is exposition, with little action until the halfway point, when a patient’s suicide prompts another guard to question The Movement. From here, the narrator speaks with a number of women who challenge her tidy image of the “New World.” This is most successful as a satirical look at gender essentialism and the difficulty of creating unity after a revolution. It’s a worthy thought experiment, but it falls short as a novel. (Oct.)