cover image The Attempt

The Attempt

Magdaléna Platzová, trans. from the Czech by Alex Zucker. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-942658-08-5

Platzová’s latest is an extended ramble through the New York of distant and recent memory, in search of the legacy of radical politics that connects the American left and the postwar diaspora of European Jews. Upon discovering that he is the descendent of a vaunted anarchist, a Czech historian named Jan begins to unearth the story of a failed attempt on the life of a wealthy businessman, which has repercussions for the survivors of both families. The book also tells the story of Andrei B. and Lousie G., two anarchists active in the early 20th century who bear more than a passing resemblance to the true story of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. In the present, Jan’s research takes him from museums and archives to the acquaintance of a nun who shares a connection to the would-be assassination, then back to the haunted Prague of his birth—and finally to the fashionable theory-minded American left, where students with heads full of Žižek and futurism occupy Wall Street. But Jan’s adventures only act as the prelude to the novel’s centerpiece: a vivid reconstruction of the life of Andrei B. and Louise G., their deportation, radicalization, and enduring love. Between this and 2014’s Aaron’s Leap, Platzová is on a roll, telling rich stories of European history and the 20th century’s cumbrous fallout. (May)