Svetlana Žuchová, born in 1976, studied psychology at Vienna University and medicine at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava. She works at a psychiatric clinic in Prague. Her stories have been published in journals including Dotyky, Rak, Romboid, Vlna, OS and the weekly Slovo.
Twice she was awarded prizes at the annual short story competition Poviedka (in 2001 and 2005) and her texts appeared in anthologies of works from this competition. Her first book was the story collection Dulce de leche (2003), for which she received the Ivan Krasko Prize. Next came the chamber novella Yesim (2006), set in the milieu of Turkish emigrants in Austria and based on the poetical narrative monologue of the principal character, the young woman Yesim, about the key events and circumstances of her life. In the novel Zlodeji a svedkovia (Thieves and Witnesses, 2011), the author continued to pursue her interest in the psychology of a person living away from home, and also explored relationships within immigrant communities. Her third novel, linked with its predecessor by the narrator and main character Marisia, is Obrazy zo života M. (Scenes from the Life of M., 2013). All three novels were included in the final of the most important Slovak literary competition Anasoft Litera (2007, 2012 and 2014).
Žuchová also translates fiction and non-fiction from English and German, including works by Michel Faber, Sarah Kane, and Sophie Kinsella.
The plot of Scenes from the Life of M. loosely follows on from the writer’s previous novel, Thieves and Witnesses. The main character, Marisia, returns from Vienna to Slovakia after her mother’s death, lives with her partner and works as a nurse. While in the first novel, Marisia was looking for a home for herself, this novel shows her finding one. Descriptions of her everyday life alternate with memories of her mother’s death, her mundane existence juxtaposed with the extremity of certain situations. The novel’s main theme is one of family ties both old and new, close and distant, and their importance and futility.
The day Mum died I went to the swimming pool. Mum died at daybreak and they called me from the hospital just before seven. At that time I was visiting Mum every weekend, and from Friday to Sunday I slept in her empty flat. It was then that Janut moved out. I had placed great hopes in my relationship with Janut. I had wanted to mature with Janut, because maturity was something that fascinated me. From morning to evening we had our hands full working on maturity. I imagined that maturity consisted of furnishing a flat, of a rental agreement and savings in a bank account. I noticed my interest in maturity one weekend afternoon in Ikea. You see, the supposition is that a person becomes aware of something at one particular moment. For example, one of Oto’s sisters once told me that she became aware of her future husband’s love when he said he wanted to have a child with her. Janut, on the other hand, claimed that he decided not to go to work any more when his boss called him into his office in a caravan. Apparently, he didn’t even invite him to sit down and Janut had to listen to his abuse standing up. I’m not sure that it is true. Whether we really become aware of certain facts from one moment to the next and we suddenly know something we didn’t know before. At a precise moment in time. It may be rather that our awareness of something slowly ripens within us and gradually gets nearer and nearer to the surface. And then, seemingly all of a sudden, it becomes visible. And it is equally possible that moments of realisation don’t in fact exist and are created retrospectively in our memories. That this gradual, slow smouldering is compressed in our memories into an instant when we became aware of something. As if all of a sudden, from one moment to the next.
When Janut stopped going to work, he suggested that we should go to Ikea. It’s true we haven’t yet got a rental agreement or work permit, but for a start we could at least buy a new bed. I agreed and one weekend we took an afternoon train to the shopping centre. All my life I have had a well-defined taste in furniture. I grew up with my grandmother in a house furnished with heavy antique furniture.