My rating ★★★★☆
Saturnin is a humorous novel written by a Czech author Zdeněk Jirotka. It follows the adventures and misfortunes of the narrator and his servant Saturnin. The narrator is a regular young man who has this one quirk - he decides to hire a servant.
Saturnin makes the life of his master a lot more exciting and adventurous. He has a habit of making up stories about his master’s great achievements, and makes sure to support these stories with evidence, like the time when he stuffed their home with taxidermy animals and claimed them to be his master’s hunting trophies. Saturnin on a whim decides to move out from a comfortable old apartment and instead live on a boat. Ever the slightest hint of an inconvenience appears on the horizon, Saturnin comes up with a solution. Of course except for the times when he himself causes the inconvenience.
In the course of the story we are introduced to a few other characters. There are aunt Katerina and her son Milouš, the grandfather, narrator’s love interest miss Barbora, and the family doctor, who eagerly offers his advice on any given topic under the sun. Most of the story takes place at the grandfather's summer house.
The story in itself is very leisurely, but not at all boring. There are beautiful descriptions of nature. The subtle, almost English like humour, is very enjoyable. This book is often compared to Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster.
All in all, I liked the book and even watched a bit of the adaptation, which is a 4 episode mini series. I could only find it in Czech, and to my surprise half an hour into the episode I was even able to understand every tenth word or so. Czech is kind of similar to Polish, but I’d have to get exposed to the language a lot more, before I can understand it.
What I really liked about this book were these little bits of knowledge, usually offered as pieces of wisdom from doctor Vlakh. They were quotes about life and relationships, but what really struck me, was a passage on the importance of mental health, which said that it’s just as important as physical health. It’s a grave mistake thinking that mentally ill is the same as insane. Insanity is mental death. And it’s even worse that people tend to feel ashamed if a relatively young person struggles with mental health. Saying “How dare you be sick!” is just as ridiculous as saying “How dare you have appendicitis!”.
Saturnin is a brilliant book and I can’t wait to read other works by Zdeněk Jirotka.