Friday, May 05, 2017

Czech Republic: Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar

My library has this labelled as science fiction, but it is much more than that. It tells the story of Jakub Prochazka, the first spaceman of Bohemia. Jakub, a scientist who studies cosmic dust, is sent into space on a mission that no other nation will undertake, to study a cloud of cosmic dust that has been left shadowing Venus by a mysterious comet. With no other companion in space than an alien arachnid, who is possibly a hallucination, Jakub must cope with the gradual failure of his marriage (via transmissions from earth), and the failure of his mission. Stranded in space, he must find a way home.

This is by no means the end of the story. The book also gives us a lot of the recent history of the Czech Republic, through the history of Jakub's own family. He must confront the dark deeds of his father, and his love for his grandparents, and somehow make a new life for himself.

I loved this book. (That's two in a row with strange aliens - a coincidence? But this one resembles Jane Rawson's in that point only, otherwise they are very different books). The suspenseful plot was enhanced by the in depth characterisation of Jakub, his wife Lenka, grandparents, and other peripheral characters including the mysterious Shoe Man.

Jaroslav Kalfar was born in the Czech Republic and emigrated to the US at the age of fifteen. It appears from his author photo that he is still quite young. Unlike many other books written by authors who emigrate to the United States, this is in no way an American book. And it appears from the acknowledgments at the back that the author still considers himself very much Czech, referring as he does to "my country" in a way that can only mean the Czech Republic. So, while I keep trying (often fruitlessly) to read books that have been published in the country and language of the author, rather than the countless American influenced books of immigrants, I felt that this one was an entirely satisfactory choice for the Czech Republic.

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