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The Topography of Pain

The Topography of Pain

By Ivan Lesay Jonathan Gresty

Three maps, one birthplace. Three epochs, one sorrow. A common thread of high ambitions, dashed hopes, and betrayed ideals runs through them all. Naďa’s failing health forces her to confront her moral principles. It is her body and she can use it the way she wants. Jaro, in the midst of the post-Communist transition, undergoes a profound life review as he loses all his illusions. Adam represents the culmination of these intertwined stories, emerging as the first man in an uncertain and fluid future world, easy-going, weary-falling.


Guernica World Editions (World Prose in Translation)


315 pages |

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In his extraordinary triptych, Ivan Lesay takes us on a journey through time from communist Czechoslovakia through Slovakia’s transitional present to the futuristic world of tomorrow. The Topography of Pain is a surprising narrative, a brave writing odyssey by a talented writer.

Goran Vojnović, writer, screenwriter and film director, Slovenia

Ivan Lesay’s ambitious debut novel deftly switches perspectives, letting the reader guess the relations between its three protagonists: the beautiful student Naďa, the aspiring journalist Jaro, and Adam, a young man who falls down to earth from dizzying technological heights.

Julia Sherwood, translator, United Kingdom

The revolution broke the system. The country broke in two. The people broke in pieces. The Topography of Pain unfolds as an intricate narrative that delves deep into the torment spanning three generations, unveiling its myriad facets, whether surreal, hyper-realistic, or post-apocalyptic.

Alexandra Salmela, writer, Finland

Someone who just wants to be left in peace is being hit hard by destiny and biology. Ordinary people have extraordinary lives. The periphery happens to live the very essence of history. Is it because of the time and the place? All kinds of division here! Plus lots of love and alcohol, very naturally present.

Jānis Joņevs, writer, Latvia

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Slovak National Book of the Year - 3rd place

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About the author

Ivan Lesay (1980) was born in Trnava, (Czecho-)Slovakia. He studied and taught political science and political economy at universities in Trnava, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. His professional career has been centered around European investments and green energy. Lesay made his literary debut with a children’s book and has authored short stories, including some for radio. His debut novel Topography of Pain was published in 2020 and received the prestigious 3rd place in the Slovak National Book of the Year 2020 award.

Jonathan Gresty (1965) grew up in a British town in Cheshire but has lived more than half his life in Slovakia. He is a university teacher but has also worked as a translator from Slovak into English for many years and has several translations of novels to his credit. He has written several short stories and theatre plays, in which he has also acted. He is married and has two grown-up children.