Kateřina Rudčenková – a Czech writer who has published poetry, short stories and plays to critical acclaim – has built a reputation for her very honest, autobiographical writing, a realm which she acknowledges can at times be very difficult for both the writer and those featured in the writing.
In her earlier days some of her writing has damaged relationships, she said, and so now she works to find a different path so she can still keep writing autobiographically but not upset those close to her.
“I must say that that my stories were about real people, and there were a lot of them felt offended by my writing and that’s why I didn’t want to continue like this, to hurt people by what I’m writing. That’s why I continue to write prose and short stories, but I always try to write it somehow not to hurt anybody,” she said, speaking ahead of her appearance at the 5th EU-China International Literary Festival. “That makes it more difficult because it’s much easier just to describe the reality and relationships, how they were. But it’s not possible to do it. And then I lost some friends, for example.”
She is currently working on her first novel, which is also posing some problems for her due to its strong autobiographical nature.
“So, this is a conflict. I think that prose writers, if you’re trying to write something autobiographical it’s something that is potentially very difficult for relationships. So how do you it? Both keep relationships and write honest prose. How?”
One way she has found that works is to focus on the past rather the present.
“I found the way is to write about the relationships which ended already. You can’t be so honest when you want to keep these relationships, It’s impossible, I think. To do both at the same time. Well, it’s really difficult.”
While Rudčenková sees her work as clearly fiction, she feels to keep her writing honest and authentic the terrain must be somewhat familiar to her.
“For me, it’s quite difficult to create stories which didn’t happen. And also, somehow for me, writing is trying to capture reality. Of course, everything I write is not true. Of course, I change it, but somehow I have a feeling I should be true, I should describe really experienced reality. I somehow feel that when I am trying to create a completely fictional story that I shouldn’t do it somehow.”
At nine and 10 years of age Rudčenková was already producing her first poetry, and was writing seriously by the time she reached her teens.
“When I felt unhappy, somehow that the world didn’t understand me, and poetry was the only way I could express myself and my feelings,” she said of that time.
She entered a conservatory for writing and wrote song lyrics, stage plays, poetry and prose. A teacher in the conservatory had a publishing house and published her first collection when she was 23, a publication that was very well received in the Czech Republic.
For many years she wrote more prose than poetry, but in 2013 published an award-wining collection that has been widely translated called Walking on Dunes. She wrote it when she was at a writing residency in Latvia by the Baltic seashore.
“And it was this Baltic landscape of dunes that really inspired me because it resembled somehow my soul, these sand dunes and pines and ocean and seagulls.”
As a writer she enjoys flitting between poetry, prose and stage plays, finding that each have their own strengths and merits.
“My prose writing so far was quite autobiographical and my stories are mainly about the relationships in family and mostly love relationships with men, so I wrote stories because in poetry I cannot capture a longer story or a love story in a wider form,” she said. “But also, I think that poetry, prose and drama can capture a different surface of reality. That’s the reason why when I am trying to write about something maybe I wrote a poem, but I also write prose, a story, and also theatre plays – in three different ways. Because it always enables me to capture some different aspects of the reality.”
At this stage in her writing career she finds herself drawn more to the lure of theatre and the stage, largely because of the connection she can find with audiences.
“Yes, for me it’s really the most interesting, It’s most exciting for me to write for theatre because you get immediate response. It’s something I don’t get too much when I’m writing for poetry or prose … it somehow comes alive on the stage,” she said.
“I am also quite autobiographical in my theatre plays, so it’s really strange when I see my life somehow onstage, and then also it’s very, very satisfying when I hear people laughing, or that I feel that they are touched. So, for me it’s what I want to concentrate on in my writing.”