Alex Zucker

Translator from Czech

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan


Alex Zucker is an award-winning translator of Czech literature. He also works in editing and nonprofit communications, and currently serves as cochair of the PEN America Translation Committee.

His latest translation is out now from Soho Press: Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street, a novel by Heda Margolius Kovály. Read the opening of Chapter 1 here.

On June 18, at 7 p.m., join Alex and Soho Press in celebrating the release of Innocence at the Czech Center New York, 321 East 73rd Street, in Manhattan. Alex will give a brief reading from his translation, followed by a conversation with Juliet Grames, his editor on the book. Beer and wine reception to follow.

Listen to Alex talk about the business of literary translation on the Three Percent podcast, with Chad Post of Open Letter and Tom Roberge of New Directions and Albertine Books, here. Read the transcript here.

Read other recent translations by Alex in Contemporary Czech Prose: Not Necessarily About Politics, the November 2014 issue of Words Without Borders, for which he also served as guest editor.

His translation of Jáchym Topol’s The Devil’s Workshop (2013, Portobello Books) was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In addition it won an English PEN Award for Writing in Translation, the Typographical Translation Award, and was named to the Fiction Longlist for the Best Translated Book Award.

Alex’s essay “O Pioneer! Michael Henry Heim and the Politics of Czech Literature in English Translation” appeared in The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation, eds. Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino, published in 2014 by Open Letter Books.

Also in 2014, Alex was commissioned to create new subtitles for the digitally restored version of Closely Watched Trains, the 1966 classic based on the Bohumil Hrabal novella, which premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

His current translation projects include the novels Love Letter in Cuneiform by Tomáš Zmeškal (Margellos World Republic of Letters at Yale University Press) and Midway on Our Life’s Journey by Josef Jedlička (Karolinum Press), both forthcoming in 2016, and The Anarchist by Magdaléna Platzová (Bellevue Literary Press).

In addition to his translation work, Alex is coeditor of Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, a volume on mass atrocity prevention forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in 2015.

He lives and works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Selected Works

“A luminous testament from a dark time, Innocence is at once a clever hommage to Raymond Chandler, and a portrait of a city – Prague – caught and held fast in a state of Kafkaesque paranoia. Only a great survivor could have written such a book.” – JOHN BANVILLE
“. . . should help to cement Jáchym Topol’s reputation as one of the most original and compelling European voices at work today.”
Times Literary Supplement
“. . . a gleeful skewering of the Czech national character and a character-rich, dialogue-sassy send-up colored by a lingering Communist legacy.”
Publishers Weekly
“. . . an acutely observed account — compelling despite its grimness — of the lives of its semi-nomadic subjects.”
Times Literary Supplement