Frederick (The Fourteenth Day, 2000, etc.) limns an apocryphal post-Communism state with a tale of three people who become companions as they face danger, illness, and history.
Stivan and Anya are still haunted by the trauma of an incomplete revolution, now five years old. Anya was Stivan’s nurse when he was injured, and he calls her years later in a pale imitation of courtship. By now, Anya has a wound of her own: breast cancer that she imagines may have been mystically triggered by having witnessed a midair plane collision that, to her, speaks volumes about the country’s political turmoil. “What is it about [Stivan’s] interest in her? He wouldn’t call it romantic or sexual but from this distance he can almost persuade himself that there’s a possibility of intimacy of some kind between them.” Before the two get together, Stivan begins work for a priest, Father Jirom, whose library was damaged by a fire, and Anya takes in her brother Leni, who’s in trouble with a mob figure back in Paris because Leni accidentally allowed his boss’s lover to sneak off on a tryst, where she died of an overdose. Anya and Stivan meet again when Anya arranges for Leni to hide out with Stivan for a time—letting both brother and boyfriend learn of Anya’s more immediate wound: a lost breast. Leni moves in with Stivan but doesn’t seem to have a discernible plan for getting himself out of trouble, and Stivan’s life becomes further complicated as he discovers that Father Jirom is trafficking in illegal immigrants. Underneath the plot lurks an awkward rhetoric: Is the country better off now, or should it heed a quiet call to bring back a Communism that’s oppressive but orderly? The new intimacies Anya, Stivan, and Leni achieve are compounded by their nostalgia for the old lives stripped away, and the fear that life now may never improve.
A complex portrait of the intricacies of emerging freedom.