The Attempt

224 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781942658085


ISBN: 9781942658092

Share on Goodreads

The Attempt is historical fiction at its best. Through its narrator’s archival approach to his material, the book explores the intimate lives of a pair of fervent idealists, as well as a robber baron and his family. The result is a vivid, poignant narrative about political upheaval, both in the past and the present.”

Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World

see more reviews hide reviews

“This intriguing story of a present-day Czech immigrant who imagines himself as the great grandson of a Russian anarchist is beautifully written.”

International DUBLIN Literary Award Longlist citation, Multnomah County Library

( link)

“Masterful. . . . In the tradition of Prus, Kundera, and Vonnegut . . . [Platzová’s] writing style is varied, sparing, insightful, and at times nothing short of poetic. Enthusiastically recommended.”

Historical Novels Review

( link)

“Platzová’s ultra-restrained curation of her material, translated with equal restraint and discrimination by Alex Zucker . . . is a powerfully distilled meditation on the meaning of freedom, a ferocious complexity lurking beneath its smooth and hypnotically readable surface.”

Words Without Borders

( link)

“A lively story. . . . Platzová demonstrates an understanding of anarchy and has a remarkable ability to explain it without dumbing it down.”

World Literature Today

( link)

“A tale to please all readers, from lovers of literary fiction to history buffs to social activists.”

Literary Hub

( link)

“Fascinating. The Attempt by Czech author Magdaléna Platzová follows a historian on the trail of political assassins and anarchists from 19th-century Pittsburgh to 1920s Europe. Naturally, the novel builds toward Occupy Wall Street, which is treated as the culmination of revolutionary politics and what it means to be radical.”

Culture Trip

( link)

“A vivid reconstruction of the life of Andrei B. and Louise G., their deportation, radicalization, and enduring love. Between this and 2014’s Aaron’s Leap, Platzová is on a roll, telling rich stories of European history and the 20th century’s cumbrous fallout.”

Publishers Weekly

( link)

“Encompasses history, anarchy, and love . . . bridg[ing] a century of social foment.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Magdalená Platzová’s The Attempt is one of those novels that rewards multiple readings—and the concise beauty of her prose makes multiple readings easily possible. . . . When you want a book that will really make you think—not for a few moments, but at length—reach for this title.”


( link)

“In her resonant and lucid tale, elegantly translated by Alex Zucker, Platzová weaves together the story of her hero’s search and an imaginary reconstruction of the passionate history that haunts him, and suggests the enduring power of ideals even after they have been shattered.”

Caleb Crain, author of Necessary Errors

“Magdaléna Platzová’s lively prose keeps readers on tenterhooks while tracing the troubled history of an industrialist’s family and fortune and the rise and fall of anarchism.”

Edith Kurzweil, former editor of Partisan Review and author of Full Circle: A Memoir

“[A] carefully crafted story, written in a lucid and refined language. . . . The Attempt examines the perennial questions of social order, sacrifice and self-sacrifice, freedom, and acceptability of violence as the conditions for change. These questions catch us by surprise in our post-utopian times, especially when an East European author of Platzová’s generation raises them. But [she] succeeds in her attempt to bring these questions to life and show their relevance; she does it without ideology and with urgency, which make the novel a pleasure to read.”

Veronika Tuckerova, Preceptor in Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

“An intelligently human book about politics, struggle, love and frustration, one that tells a story of radical politics (both modern and historical) but set against a backdrop of a personal lives and desires.”

Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (Asheville, NC)

When a Czech historian becomes convinced he’s the illegitimate great-grandson of an infamous anarchist who attempted an assassination while living in the United States, he travels to New York to investigate. Arriving in Manhattan during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, his research takes him further back into the past—from the Pittsburgh home of a nineteenth-century US industrialist to 1920s Europe, where a celebrated anarchist couple is on the run from the law.

Based on the lives of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, The Attempt is a novel about the legacy of radical politics and relationships—one that traverses centuries and continents to deliver a moving, powerful story of personal and political transformation.

Magdaléna Platzová’s novel The Attempt is translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker, an award-winning translator of Czech literature. He has received an English PEN Award for Writing in Translation, an NEA Literary Fellowship, and the ALTA National Translation Award. He currently serves as cochair of the PEN America Translation Committee and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

International DUBLIN Literary Award Longlist

World Literature Today “Notable Translations of the Year” selection

Words Without Borders “Women in Translation to Read Now” selection

Literary Hub “Translated Books by Women You Should Read” selection

Culture Trip “Books about Occupy Wall Street You Need to Read” selection

Book Culture “Selects” pick

Czech Book Award Finalist

Excerpt from The Attempt

Watch Magdaléna Platzová discuss The Attempt with translator Alex Zucker in the European Voices series.

Listen to Magdaléna Platzová discuss her work on Trafika Europe Radio and with Words Without Borders.