You Sing Like You’re Crying

Original title: Zpíváš jako bys plakala
Publisher: Paseka, 2022
190 pages
Modern Fiction

Rights sold:

Bulgarian, Albanian

Zuzana Kultánová sensitively explores the psyche of a young woman who grew up in precarious circumstances. Feelings of guilt, shame and anger are her constant companions. Her ambivalent love relationships reflect her inner turmoil. A voice of Generation Y, which seems to have many choices. But not everyone can make use of them, especially those who are socially disadvantaged.

Although young Andrea, a wife and mother, leads a good life in Prague, she is restless and dissatisfied inside. The demons of the past won’t let go of her. Though she loves her husband and her little son dearly, another love binds her thoughts—to a man twenty years her senior whom she left years ago. And yet she cannot break away from him. She met Richard, a translator, during her studies in the Moravian city of Ostrava. Against the background of the bleak atmosphere of the city near the Polish border, an ambiguous relationship develops: Richard, a weary intellectual in his early 40s who has had no luck with women so far, seems to offer the lonely Andrea what she needs right now: well-educated company, recognition, admiration, an illusion of security. She is attracted to him, but at the same time he disgusts her. Sex with him fills her with resentment and shame. She’s also ashamed of the age difference. And yet she goes along with it. She knows from the start that this relationship has no future and feels guilty for playing on Richard’s feelings. But she also feels guilt, shame and resentment when she thinks about her childhood. Her father earned money as a guest worker in Austria to support the family, who lived in Brno. At some point he became addicted to gambling and gambled away everything he had. Andrea and her two siblings suffered from material hardship. As the daughter of a gambling addict, Andrea continues to feel inferior to others as an adult. This makes her mentally unstable, especially since she continues to struggle with lack of money.

In the novel, readers meet the young woman on the terrace of her Prague apartment, where she muses at night while her husband and little son sleep. Inner monologues and memories form a mosaic of her previous life. Her marriage and motherhood are also fraught with tension. As a mother, she feels overwhelmed, guilty, afraid of failure. The pragmatic Peter can take care of her and the child, but Andrea has to earn money herself. With her sensitivity and instability she burdens Peter, who simply does not understand her. Moreover she secretly keeps in touch with Richard, with whom she actually broke up.

At night on the terrace, plagued by memories, Andrea decides to visit all the places that connect her with Richard. She wants to say goodbye to him for good. Because she knows that she is facing a new beginning.

Zuzana Kultánová belongs to the current wave of authors for whom the personal becomes political and social.
You Sing Like You’re Crying can also be read as a contribution to the message of a generation—the children of the 1990s who, although born into the freedom (of postcommunist Europe), are perhaps paradoxically often paralyzed by this very fact and by the choices available to them as well as through their battered self-confidence, restlessness and ambivalence.
Deník N

Other books by Zuzana Kultánová

Historical Fiction