[Reading] ➿ Spaceman of Bohemia Author Jaroslav Kalfar – Dolove.info
Jaroslav Kalfar s debut novel Spaceman of Bohemia has been compared to the extremely popular novel The Martian but Kalfar s novel is far superior I understand the comparison both novels are about lone men in space whose solitary Robinson Crusoe style adventures find them stranded on their journeys of exploration While it s enjoyable for some of the plot and scientific detail I thought The Martian mostly came across as repetitive and it s suffused with a particularly foul stench of macho bravado By contrast, Spaceman of Bohemia is thoughtful, continuously compelling and says something intelligent about the progress of civilization.The hero is Jakub Proch zka, an astrophysicist with a speciality in cosmic dust which makes him the perfect candidate for the Czech Republic s first mission into outer space A comet from another galaxy has streamed through our own solar system leaving a curious cloud between Venus and Earth which has stained our night time sky purple An opportunistic Czech minister sees a chance for his nation to enter the space race and collect samples of this strange material by sending Jakub on his solitary mission on a second hand space shuttle The results are bizarrely thrilling, unexpected and turn into a personal journey which prompts Jakub to survey his position in his own nation s tumultuous history.Read my full review of Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfa on LonesomeReader I found this book quite refreshing, it was the small things I love the added flavor of all the brands he mentions, the walks around the city, the true rural country side stories I know the racket there is every time someone slaughters a pig, but with the knife , the bullshit you had to deal with during socialism and other million small thing that you just don t get in American novels The first half of the book was brilliant Author used the wast distance of space to ask a lot of important questions about ourselves, such as our humanity, loneliness, madness, what makes a life worth living, social contracts, changing societal norms, freedom, inherited guilt and national identity Oh and there might or might not be a First contact situation going on.Unfortunately the second half of the book briefly turns into a sci fi, spy thriller that just yanked me out of the story and it still makes me unsure of my rating for this book the rating has changed a few times and will change a few times. A Proud Nation Witnesses Jakub Proch Zka S Ascent As He Launches Skyward From A State Owned Potato Field To Become The First Ever Spaceman Of BohemiaHe Thinks He Has Escaped Terrestrial Problems From His Father S Legacy As A Brutal Communist Informer To His Wife, Lenka, Whom He Loves Yet No Longer Understands But He Is Wrong Alone Above The Earth, His Only Solace Comes In The Form Of A Possibly Hallucinatory Arachnid With A Penchant For Existential Philosophy And NutellaMuseums Across The World Will Carry Jakub S Likeness Schoolchildren Will Repeat His Name For Centuries To Come He Came To Space To Tread The Heavens, To Grasp InfinityBut First, He Needs To Find A Way Home SpacemanOfBohemia An Incredible Experience I Can Honestly Say I Loved Every Page Every Sentence Spaceman Of Bohemia Is Unforgettable A Work Of Breathtaking Scope And Heart, And A Reflection Of Humanity That S Raw And Strange And Profound And True Lisa McInerney, Author Of The Bailey Prize Winning The Glorious Heresies I went through some interesting stages as I read this one I didn t really have any expectations other than a possible or rather probable literature SF hybrid, delving deeper into the introspective and lyrical areas of space Perhaps it could have been an oddball exploration, perhaps humorous.As I read, I noticed the lyrical bits and there s plenty of deep characterization and family and memory going on, which seems to be the common thread for long missions in space these days, but then something happened An alien I had a great time with that Everything tied together and I flowed into it pretty nicely.And then the book took a rather depressing turn that I won t go into without spoilers and then it all just devolved into romantic theme between Jakub and Lenka that got progressively morose let alone objectively sad.That in itself isn t precisely a dealbreaker, but sitting around feeling bad for oneself through the eyes of a character that could be ourselves is slightly narcissistic and indulgent and the rest of the novel, while I can appreciate it intellectually, became something less than enjoyable.I m saying it I don t think I like this new breed of LitSF titles I grew up reading Literature before I went nuts with SF, even got a degree in it I used to think it would be fantastic to see the two meet and grow together, but if this is the flavor of things to come, I think I want to go back to the whole action bits. I d describe this as a cross between Everything Is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer and The Book of Strange New Things Michel Faber It s the story of Jakub Proch zka, a Czech astronaut who leaves his wife behind to undertake a noble research mission but soon realises he can never escape his family history or the hazards of his own mind.In April 2018, Jakub sets out in the JanHus1 space shuttle, launched to investigate cosmic dust storm Chopra Although back in Prague Jakub is seen as a national hero, life in space soon loses its novelty for him he s no longer the dwarf climbing a beanstalk to arm wrestle the colossus but rather a cellular structure of banal needs for oxygen, for water, for the release of waste And then his wife, Lenka, stops showing up for their weekly video chats, so he agrees to have her followed Maybe after their long infertility struggle she s finally pregnant Amid the drudgery of daily life onboard the shuttle, Jakub makes a friend a giant, alien spider he names Hanu Jakub has the sense that Hanu is sifting through his memories, drawing out the central tragedies that form his motivation for going to space There s his parents death in a cable car accident when he was 10, the shame and persecution that resulted from his father being a Party loyalist and member of the Secret Police prior to the Velvet Revolution, and the later loss of his beloved grandfather, whose ashes Jakub carries with him in a cigar box.This debut novel is a terrific blend of the past and the futuristic, Earth and space It moves easily between Jakub s childhood memories, a few highlights of Czech history, including the martyrdom of Jan Hus, and philosophical conversations with Hanu As they hurtle towards Chopra which, Hanu tells Jakub, contains remnants of the Big Bang , it s hard to know whether this Nutella loving spider is real or a hallucination created by an ill mind In either case, it s a link to the Czech literary tradition by way of Franz Kafka.There is much to enjoy here Jakub s sometimes baroque narrative voice What good am I, a thin purse of brittle bones and spoiling meat , which is all the impressive because Jaroslav Kalfar is in his late twenties and has only spoken English for about 13 years the mixture of countryside rituals and the bustle of Prague and the uncertainty about whether Jakub has a viable future, with or without Lenka I felt the novel went downhill in Part Two and it doesn t quite pull everything together before its end However, this is still one of the best debuts I ve encountered in recent years, and I ll be eager to see what Kalfar will come up with next. Un cosmonauta del 2018 scelto per portare gloria alla Cecoslovacchia con la sua impresa spaziale e desideroso da parte sua di riscattarsi dall ombra di un padre collaborazionista del regime comunista negli anni subito precedenti la caduta del Muro Una scrittura brillante ricca di inventiva e di humour, che solo nell ultima parte si sarebbe giovata di una maggiore stringatezza.Ha talento questo giovane ceco, naturalizzato americano dalla adolescenza, che scrive in inglese ma dimostra a e un forte legame con il suo paese d origine raccontandone con partecipazione la storia nel corso dei secoli, i tempi grigi del regime e la vita di campagna scandita dalle stagioni e dalle abitudini contadine Satira e fantascienza affiancate dalle feroci ottusit del regime alla comparsa di un simpatico alieno viaggiatore e filosofo, capace di frequentare i ricordi degli umani e di studiare le nostre contraddizioni Il Guardian lo ha paragonato ad un ibrido fra Star Trek e il Kundera dello Scherzo a me per certi versi ha ricordato perfino Bulgakov, e non saprei fargli complimento migliore. L esistenza procede grazie alla spinta della sua energia con un fluido moto in avanti, eppure non smettiamo mai di cercare il punto d originePraga 2018 A Jakub Proch zka, astronauta della repubblica Ceca, viene affidata una missioneCirca un anno e mezzo prima, una cometa fino ad allora sconosciuta era entrata nella Via Lattea dalla galassia del Cane Maggiore, inondando il nostro sistema solare con una bufera di polvere cosmica intergalattica Tra Venere e la Terra si era formata una nube, che i suoi scopritori, un team di Nuova Delhi, avevano ribattezzato Chopra Era un fenomeno senza precedenti, che aveva immerso le notti terrestri in una luce zodiacale viola, alterando l aspetto del cielo cos come lo conoscevamo fin dalla nascita dell uomo L universo notturno visto dal nostro mondo non era pi nero, e la nube aleggiava nel firmamento, perfettamente immobile Spaceman of Bohemia il titolo originale In italiano si epura la nazionalit e si lascia il ruolo ma in questo romanzo il territorio fondamentale da ogni punto di vista storia e societ A partire dal nome della navicella JanHus1 che chiama in causa lo storico teologo ceco che tra la fine del 300 e l inizio del 400 fu precursore di Lutero e tra i fondatori del movimento protestante degli Ussiti che denunciava la corruzione della Chiesa Romana.E evidente da subito che l impianto fantascientifico un innesco facilmente intuibile ma comunque valido, ossia quello del viaggio spaziale come spazio e tempo per compiere un viaggio dentro se stesso Una storia personale dove, da un lato, con prepotenza un passato ingombrante cerca di occupare ogni interstizio La colpa di un padre aguzzino della dittatura sovietica ricade sulla famiglia e incide sul percorso di Jakub condizionando le scelte dopo essere stato messo dalla parte dei perdenti.Dall altro, un presente doloroso dove l a profondo per la moglie Lenka segnato dalla scelta di intraprendere l avventura spaziale.Tutto ci s intreccia prima con la Storia di una nazione Boemia Cecoslovacchia Rep Ceca e poi confluisce in riflessioni esistenziali.La nube di Chopra ci che divide un prima dove la narrazione procede con cautela nei meandri di questo intreccio di storie ed un poi dove gli eventi si succedono freneticamente con un ritmo incalzante.Sorprendente la scrittura e ancora pi sorprendente non avendo voluto di proposito leggerne a sinossi stato scoprire a fine lettura che si tratta di un esordio Jaroslav Kalfar, classe 1988, si trasferito a 15 anni con la famiglia negli Stati Uniti e l a per Praga si sente in ogni pagina di questo sorprendente romanzoLo spessore della storia, questa metropoli di sovrani e dittatori, di roghi di libri, di carri armati sporchi di sangue immobilizzati nell indecisione Passata attraverso tante vicissitudini, la citt ancora qui, con i suoi grandi e piccoli piaceri proiettati sui volti dei passanti che si affrettano verso uffici e negozi per prendere parte al rito delle rispettive esistenze Loro non se ne andranno Dio, non se ne andranno mai, e anche se ero costretto a lasciarli, li amavo con tutta l anima, nella pace e nel tumulto Un libro affianca questa lettura ed Robinson Crusoeuno dei romanzi preferiti della mia infanzia, che il dottor Ku k mi aveva raccomandato di portare con me per creare un associazione confortante Ma soprattutto, aveva aggiunto, avrei dovuto ispirarmi al protagonista come al perfetto esempio di un uomo che sposa la solitudine e ne trasforma gli aspetti invalidanti in opportunit di miglioramento personale .Una colonna sonora Russalka assaggioSappiamo che il mondo funziona per capriccio, per un insieme di coincidenze Esistono due sistemi principali per affrontarlo Il primo consiste nel temere il caos, nel contrastarlo per poi prendersela con se stessi quando la battaglia perduta , nel costruirsi una vita ben strutturata fatta di lavoro matrimonio palestra riunioni figli depressione amanti divorzio alcolismo riabilitazione infarto, una vita in cui ogni decisione una reazione alla paura di una sorte peggiore si fanno figli per evitare di essere dimenticati, si scopa qualcuno alla rimpatriata nel caso l opportunit non si ripresenti pi e si ricade nel Santo Graal dei paradossi ci si sposa per combattere la solitudine, dopo di che si piomba nel costante desiderio di stare da soli tipico di tutti i coniugi Con questo genere di vita non si pu vincere, ma per lo meno si prova la consolazione della lotta il cuore umano appagato quando i conflitti lo distraggono.Il secondo sistema l accettazione indiscriminata dell assurdit di quanto ci circonda Bir Astronotun Sonsuz Yolculu u, T rkiye deki okurlara da hitap eden bir kitap, nk yazar n hem lkesine duydu u sevgiyi hem de lkesine serzeni ini ifade ediyor O lkesine k zan, fkelenen, sitem eden ama onu sevmekten ve b y k i ler ba ard hayal etmekten vazge emeyen bir yazar.Hik yemiz ekya da ba l yor On milyon n fuslu bu k k lke, bir ilki ba aracak uzay program yla herkese o kadar da k k olmad n ispatlama derdine d ecektir Ven s le D nya aras nda ortaya kan Chopra adl benzersiz bir toz bulutu gecelerimizi mor bir zodyak yla boyamaya ba lam t r Chopra elbette incelenecektir ama ekya bunu, uzay konusunda y llar n tecr besi olan b y k lkeler de d hil, herkesten nce incelemek i in JanHus1 adl bir uzay arac ve bir astronot g nderecektir B ylece Jakub Prockazha n n yolculu u ba lar Bu, k k ve uzayda tecr besiz bir lke i in ok b y k bir ba ar d r Buradaki ama sadece bilim de il, herkesten nce oraya gitmek ve t m d nyan n sayg s n kazanmakt r Jakub ise imdiden ulusal bir kahramand r.Bu kitap asl nda uzaydan ok yazar n lkesi hakk nda Jakub, yolculu u s ras nda s k s k an lara ve d ncelere dalarken biz de ekya n n tarihi hakk nda bilgi edinme f rsat buluyoruz eklerin ulusal kahraman Jan Hus un Katolik Kilisesi ne kar kmas , Nazilerin ekya y i gal etmesi, sava tan sonra kom nist y netimde ya anan olaylar, Kadife Devrim ve lkenin kapitalizme geri d nmesi Roman bu konuda i ini olduk a iyi yap yor ama yazar bu b l mlerde gere inden fazla ayr nt ya girdi i i in bilimkurgudan uzakla t da oluyor Bu b l mlerle ilgili ba ka bir sorun da uzay yolculu uyla ba lant n n sadece k smen kurulabilmi olmas.Kitapta en ok sevdi im ey, Jakub un kar la t uzayl yd Onun bir ismi olmasa da Jakub ona Hanus ismini verir Hanus biraz bilge, biraz da vurdumduymaz bir tiptir Ayr ca Nutella m ptelas d r stelik ilgin bir uzayl betimlemesidir Sekiz adet k ll bacak, i kin bir f y and ran g vde, her bacakta eklem yeri, deriden karman orman f rlam ince gri t yler, say lamayacak kadar ok say da g z ve iki kal n insan duda stelik bu dudaklar ruj k rm z s renginde aka de il G r nt s size korkutucu gelmesin O mant kl , biraz esprili ve g rm ge irmi biri Nutellay g rd ndeyse kendini kaybediyor Onun Jakub la olan sohbetleri, Jakub a s ska insan diye hitap etmesi ke ke daha fazlas olsaym dedi im k s mlard Bir Astronotun Sonsuz Yolculu u bence ger ek bir bilimkurgu roman de il Bir a k roman , bir dram roman , bir tarih roman, bir eve d n roman olabilir, fakat bir bilimkurgu roman de il Yolculu u bir uzay yolculu u de il de d nya zerinde uzak bir yere yolculuk, Hanus u da bir uzayl de il de ba ka bir lkeden bir yabanc olarak kurgulasak kitaptan yine de ayn tad alabilirdik.Kitab okumay bitirdi imde nce bu roman eksik kalan bir eyler var diyerek ele tirmeyi d nd m ama sonra bir daha d n nce anlad m ki yazar, okurlar ndan b yle hissetmelerini istemi ti Bu sonsuz bir yolculuktu ve bundan bir kesit almak, ka n lmaz olarak bir eylerin eksik g r nmesi anlam na gelecekti Baz eyler a z m zda buruk bir tat b rakabilir ama hayat b yledir Her zaman her ey m kemmel de ildir Hatta nadiren m kemmeldirOkan AKINCI ncelemenin tamam i in Existence runs on energy, a fluid movement forward, yet we never stop seeking the point of origin, the Big Bang that set us upon our inevitable course. Jakub Proch zka, the first Czech in space, is sent on a solo mission to collect dust from the mysterious Chopra cloud The long journey through the cosmos gives him plenty of time to ponder the state of his marriage His wife Lenka is getting increasingly distant during their chats One day, Lenka goes into hiding and doesn t show up for their weekly call Devastated by her disappearance, he sinks into a deep depression That s when a Nutella loving alien spider appears Jakub names him Hanu , after a Czech clockmaster Is Hanu real or a figment of his imagination, perhaps a personification of his fears Jakub s conversations with Hanu help him assess his life and determine what drove him to this point Can this expedition into the unknown help him overcome his father s sins Will he survive the dangerous journey and return home Even if he finds his way back to Earth, will Lenka remain permanently out of reach Wasn t all life a form of phantom being, given its involuntary origin in the womb No one could guarantee a happy life, a safe life, a life free of violations, external or eternal Yet we exited birth canals at unsustainable speeds, eager to live, floating away to Mars at the mercy of Spartan technology or living simpler lives on Earth at the mercy of chance We lived regardless of who observed us, who recorded us, who cared where we went. Spaceman of Bohemia is a mix of science fiction, history, politics and philosophy Sometimes I saw shades of Kurt Vonnegut Hanu and Anthony Marra Jakub s childhood The story takes a messier path than I usually prefer, but it actually worked for me here It fits with the way Hanu interacts with Jakub s memories and mirrors the tangled web of human history Jakub s journey shifts halfway through I preferred the first half There was less room for humor in the second half I also missed some of the characters from the beginning The writing was always gorgeous, but sometimes too ornate for me I d get lost in a sentence and have to start over or I d lose sight of Jakub during the philosophical ruminations I started to see the author s hand in the second half, but it was still a pleasure to readYou know that the world is always trying to take us This country, that country We can t fight the whole world, the ten million of us, so we pick the people we think should be punished, and we make them suffer the best we can In one book, your father is a hero In another book, he is a monster The men who don t have books written about them have it easierCzechoslovakia s Velvet Revolution, the bloodless overthrow of the authoritarian Communist government in 1989, marks a turning point in Jakub s life Jakub s father was a member of the secret police he informed on his neighbors and participated in torture Once the Communists lose power, the man who was feared becomes a target After his death, Jakub and his grandparents face the full brunt of the community s resentment Jakub considers himself the biological carrier of his father s curse Every step he takes is intended to overcome his father s mistakes Are our parents flaws embedded in our DNA, destining us to repeat their mistakes One character notices that Jakub and his father share the same terminal decision to serve Would Jakub s father have always been attracted to brutality, or could his worst impulses be harnessed for good in the right conditions Is Jakub proof that his father s actions were borne out of circumstance Love could turn us all into war criminals One of Jakub s biggest fears is being a nobody It s part of why he s so intent on having children Jakub sees firsthand how the things that drive us can also destroy us As good as Jakub tries to be, he isn t perfect He s willing to trample over other people to survive and I can t say I blamed him He imagines a man tortured for selfish means He even has Lenka followed, despite feeling guilty about it Jakub was completely blindsided by Lenka s disappearance His travels caused some strain on their relationship, but he thought that their love was enough to hold them together He was too caught up in his own goals to notice that his marriage might not be going as well as he thoughtPeople become abstractions And the things weighing on you become clear That s why people are so afraid to be away from each other, I think The truth begins to creep in The physical distance between Jakub and Lenka deepens cracks in a marriage already on a shaky foundation How could he have been so distant from the person he thought he was closest to How could he have been so unaware of what was going on right in front of him It was exhilarating, all of it was existence alone not revolution Our efforts to establish routines in the nature that forbade them, to understand depths we could never reach, to declare truths even as we collectively snicker at the word s virginal piousness What a mess of contradictions the gods created when they graced us with self awarenessWhy are we here Is a life made most meaningful by a person s achievements or the intimate relationships they make along the way Who has it better in life those who live simple lives or those whose names are still uttered because of their contributions to society Is living a quiet life enough Jakub expresses wonderment at humanity s unstoppable march forward When he looks at Old Town Square in Prague, he sees all of its iterations through the decades the things that change for the good, the things that change for the worse, and the things that only change on the surface Life is messy, but alway moving He feels an overwhelming love of humanity and a sense of pride to be a part of it all He sees the value in people who propel us forward without any thought to self preservation, but also in those who keep moving forward with their day to day lives despite everything going around them As driven as Jakub was to explore the unknowns of space, he realizes there are many mysteries to explore on the Earth too In a way, we are all exploring the unknown, feeling our way through the dark How unlikely Yet here we are. Isolation makes Jakub see what he values and what he really wants out of his life Will Jakub get a second chance to live for himself He ll have to confront many uncomfortable truths first Like with many of these stories packed with lots of big ideas, I m not confident that I absorbed everything It was a messy, beautiful journey, very much like life.I received this book for free from Netgalley and Little, Brown and Company in exchange for an honest review This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review It s available now Another quote that struck me, but I couldn t work it into my review The greatness of a nation is in its symbols, its gestures, in doing things that are unprecedented It s why the Americans are falling behind they built a nation on the idea of doing new things, and now they d rather sit and pray that the world won t make them adapt too much. This book wasn t at all what I thought it would be I went in expecting maybe a slightly wacky space travel tale, about the first Czech astronaut in space meeting an extraterrestrial life form while going about his mission What I got was a Kafka esque, vaguely allegorical story about the first Czech astronaut in space, with lots of rumination about politics, relationships, privacy, family, and many other topics Jakub is chosen for a mission to investigate a potentially dangerous dust cloud in space, and he sees this as an opportunity to redeem his family s name his father was a Communist enforcer before the 1989 revolution He leaves behind a wife, knowing that the mission could be suicide He has started to feel the psychological stress of months alone in space when he meets a giant alien spider Philosophical conversations between spaceman and alien ensue And I know this is kind of weird, but I kept singing the song Dream Ghost from Crazy Ex Girlfriend while I was reading, because it s never really clear if the spider was hallucinated or actually real And also its purpose in the story is the same purpose that Michael Hyatt, Ricki Lake, and Amber Riley explain in the song giving advice you kind of already knew The space journey and its potential disasters is interspersed with Jakub s personal history how his father s career affected his childhood, how he met his wife, and the tensions in their marriage It was fine, but I was expecting of a space adventure kind of story and so I was honestly a little bored by all the rumination I wasn t really sure that I was headed towards a point For the record, we were headed towards a point Jakub s story is actually brought full circle in a fairly powerful way But that didn t happen until the last fifty pages and by that point, I was just too disengaged from the story for it to reeeaaaally have a significant impact on me And that s a shame, because I think this could be a great fit for a different reader, someone who s a little interested in reading a philosophical Czech novel that just so happens to be set in space.