About the Author
Jaroslav Kalfar was born and raised in Prague, Czech Republic, and emigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen, speaking little to no English at that time but learning it by watching Cartoon Network. He is twenty-seven years old.
About the Book
Publisher’s Summary: Set in the near-distant future, Spaceman follows a Czech astronaut as he launches into space to investigate a mysterious dust cloud covering Venus, a suicide mission sponsored by a proud nation. Suddenly a world celebrity, Jakub’s marriage starts to fail as the weeks go by, and his sanity comes into question. After his mission is derailed he must make a violent decision that will force him to come to terms with his family’s dark political past. An extraordinary vision of the endless human capacity to persist-and risk everything-in the name of love and home, by a startlingly talented young debut novelist.
320 pages, expected publication date March 2017
My rating: 5 (out of 5)
My review: Space adventure, chronicle of recent Czech history and love story all rolled into one. Blasted into space to investigate a purple dust cloud christened Chopra, like Robinson Crusoe, Jakub detects signs of his strange companion before his actual encounter. But is this entity a product of space madness, Jakub’s infected tooth or a much more significant moment for mankind? Whichever it is, the encounter is a vehicle for Jakub to revisit the events of his youth, notably the trauma of discovering his father’s chequered history and a meeting that will reverberate in future years . “When my father the hero was lost, my father the nation’s villain came to light”. Jakub’s belief that he is the “biological carrier of my father’s curse” (“It must rest within my bowels like a tapeworm.”) and must make amends is the catalyst for his resolution to undertake the dangerous space mission, so important for the pride of his fledgling nation. A review would not be complete without mentioning the brutally honest depiction of the relationship between Jakub and Lenka that is both believable and ultimately moving. The author’s writing style grew on me and some of his metaphors are very imaginative (“Comets are the universe’s dumpster divers, vagrants pushing their carts of intergalactic junk tirelessly over the centuries”), others occasionally less so. His descriptions of sights, sounds and particularly smells are very evocative. A very impressive first novel – highly recommended.
In three words: Strange, imaginative, moving