Jean Echenoz ‘Running’

I am of an age to understand at once who the Émile referred to in this book could be, a legend.image

The book is a romanticised biography of Émile Zatopek, beginning before the war following his family situation where his father does not believe in sport, they are too poor and have too many mouths to fill to waste calories on sport. Through to his job working on the rubber soles in a shoe factory (a disgustingly smelly job that could not have helped his breathing).

He begins running but does not enjoy it and tries to avoid it but is just too good carrying out his whole career from within the army. Echenoz takes us through his very particular training methods for the time (a long distance runner who exceptionally ran using regular pace changes during his races to break down the resilience of his opponents) and explains to us the particular lack of beauty of his running style. Zatopek at one time holds 11 distinct world records and becomes a propaganda figure in the small post war communist regime in Czechoslovakia

His rapid rise and his slow decline are followed as well as an attempt to illustrate the changing political situation of the time.

If you are interested in the illustrated life of Zatopek ok but otherwise there are other books out there.

First published in French as Courir by Les Editions de Minuit in 2008
Translated into English by Linda Coverdale as Running and published by The New Press in 2009

3 thoughts on “Jean Echenoz ‘Running’”

  1. I knew about him because my father is a sport-lover.
    I’m not tempted with that kind of book. I’m not fond of in-between books. Semi-journalistic / semi-nove. semi-autobiographic/semi-novel. Semi-biography/semi-novel. Well, you get the picture.
    It always seems sloppy work to me: not enough imagination to write a read novel, not enough patience-skills-research to stick to non-fiction.

    PS: You probably know it but Les Editions de Minuit are specialised in experimental / modernist fiction.

    1. I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first Echenoz, and as you will know this is not his only semi biographical work, but he has a reputation and I will check out another of his works later, any ideas?

      Sometimes I put a lot of time and care into a post and get little response, this one I rushed off with little real interest (it shows) and have more than my average number of likes in no time, I guess people are more interested in the subject of the book than the message

      1. I’ve never been tempted by Echenoz, no matter the number of prizes he receives or the praise he gets.

        I know what you mean about posts.
        I tell you what: tell me which review I should read and I’ll read it. 🙂

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