by Jean Echenoz
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Jean Echenoz's twelfth book, his second historical novel, throws into relief the difficult and remarkable life of Emil Zátopek, a Czech long-distance runner. The story might be merely inspirational if Echenoz did not tell it so truthfully: Though Zátopek is regarded as one of the greatest runners of the twentieth century, his famously brutal training techniques and graceless form suggested an expertise almost wrenched from his body: "He knows he can rely on himself and on his love of pain," Echenoz writes.
In fact, given not only Zátopek's Herculean exercise regimen but also the punishing manual labor that bookended his athletic career, Working seems as appropriate a title for Echenoz's novel as Running. Zátopek's first race as a teenager was sponsored by his employer, a shoe-rubber factory in the industrial town
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