World is Round

Iva Pekarkova, Author, David Powelstock, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (229p) ISBN 978-0-374-29287-4
The young Czech novelist whose exploits as a cabdriver have been chronicled in the New York Times magazine has followed up the success of her innovative first novel, Truck Stop Rainbows , with a poignant and highly original account of life in an Austrian refugee camp. Pekarkova's abundant gifts as a satirist and shrewd observer of character are on full display here, as is her love of risk and challenge. Still in her 20s, narrator Jitka has become bored with her life in Prague in the late '70s, and with her relationship with her sexy but somewhat dense lover. She applies for a visa to Yugoslavia, is caught trying to sneak over the border to Austria and is nearly deported. The reason for her flight is never really clear, even to Jitka herself, who is a kind of female Jack Kerouac, craving adventure. She heads to Italy, proceeding after several wanton weeks from there to an Austrian refugee camp. Pekarkova provides a stunning portrayal of the desperate and motley crew of refugees, who are willing to try anything and to head anywhere to begin a new life. Jitka's own approach to life and sex is free and easy, but she isn't prepared for the boredom and aimlessness of camp life and, before long, she and another woman are gang-raped. Demoralized, Jitka escapes and hitchhikes all over Europe, returning to the camp to discover that the U.S. has accepted her immigration application, presumably as a ``political dissident.'' The novel ends with a cryptic epilogue as, 10 years later in New York, Jitka muses about her past. Pekarkova is one of the finest young novelists to come out of what used to be called Czechoslovakia, and the unflinching portrait she offers here of Eastern and Central European immigration is both timely and unique. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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