cover image More Than One Life

More Than One Life

Miloslava Holubova. Hydra Books, $22.95 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-1705-1

""Perhaps I took a train in the wrong direction, or got off at the wrong stop and became hopelessly lost,"" says the narrator of this slim volume about emotional dislocation. Czech author Holubov 's first novel to be translated into English (it was published in Prague in 1994) is a delicate first-person narrative that attempts to recapture both a lost father and a bygone age. The unnamed daughter of an upper-middle-class family describes her disorientating experiences during the years she comes to maturity, before WWII, and her life through and after the 1968 Prague Spring. She attributes her emotional turmoil mainly to a psychic rift caused by the mismatch of her parents. The story--told through a kind of dreamy confession the narrator makes to an old man she strikes up an acquaintance with on the street--focuses on the father, a vital businessman who abruptly abandons his wife and four children after 26 years of marriage. While the mother, an intelligent woman in ill health, wants a partnership of equals, the father's concession to the modern world is to forgive his wife's ""waywardness,"" while thinking of her in an old-fashioned, condescending manner. The frustration of the father's increasing alienation emerges in his paranoia about the values that the mother is teaching the children, and in his tirades about needing to share his ""experience"" of suffering, which is not adequately delineated. Eventually he snaps and, after an escapade with a young woman 30 years his junior, he divorces his wife and meanders off into a failed suicide attempt and a separate existence. The narrative weaves in and out of past and present, using family memories, excerpts from the father's dream journal and gentle, intelligent and lyrical meditations on Czech life. Like Czech poet Miroslav Holub, Holubov synthesizes traditional lyricism and a tougher modernism into a tool for expressing the deadening of the spirit. (July)