Books by Iva Pekárková

THE WORLD IS ROUND by Iva Pekárková
Released: July 1, 1994

Czech ÇmigrÇ Pek†rkov†, author of Truck Stop Rainbows (1992), spins a contemporary tale of life in an Austrian refugee camp. Jitka bids a rather cold-blooded farewell to her married lover, Standa, in Prague and with motley male assistance hies herself across a few borders until she's safely in Italy. Once her presence there is discovered, she's sent to Traiskirchen, a refugee camp on the outskirts of Vienna, where with the other FlÅchtlingen- -those who've fled, flown—she endures her first taste of Western freedom. The taste is mostly sour, the camp ``an institution of waiting. A place where nothing that happened at the moment held any meaning unless it directly influenced what would (hopefully) happen at some point in the future.'' Living in a barracks with half a dozen other women (and their various boyfriends), working menial jobs outside the camp, assembling petitions to different countries for emigration, Jitka stays sane—like everyone else, it seems- -through sex. She is epically promiscuous; a man in her bed is an acknowledgement of needs shared, of not being alone in what to the escapees is a frighteningly large world. But when Jitka is brutally gang-raped by a group of Albanians in the men's barracks, this dream of body-sharing has its evil side flipped up to the light. When she is finally allowed to leave for America, she is more than ready. Pek†rkov† evokes the sensations of this purgatory well enough, but the book is thin and overly narrated: other voices intrude, but like the men Jitka takes into herself, they are never quite there, nor do they last beyond immediate use. A novel that reads like a memoir—and a curiously abstract one at that, despite its origins in teeming disadvantage. Read full book review >
TRUCK STOP RAINBOWS by Iva Pekárková
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

A first novel from the Czech-born Pek†rkov†, now an N.Y.C. cabdriver, follows the story of 25-year-old Prague resident Fialka- -a part-time student, part-time nature photographer (specializing in deformed flowers and other oddities), and more-than-occasional hitchhiker— who is determined to go her own way. But in the still dreary Marxist Czechoslovakia of the 1980's, that's no easy program: instead, she finds herself struggling uphill against faceless uncheer by means of her body (she begins to take on long- distance truckers who drive the northern and southern cross-country highways—tricks that leave her feeling free if at an eventual cost) and by her post-hippie ideals (``I'd had the goal of not dreaming, but living, remaining unblunted, childlike, young...within the boundaries of the space allotted to me, it had been my goal to love, feel, survive, and, in the end, just to be''). Two men, though, are the poles of her life—her best platonic pal, Patrik, dying of multiple sclerosis; and Erik, a Swedish traveler with whom she falls in love. Both she must ultimately renounce, ever onward in her quest for ``rainbows.'' Fialka's self-pity is hard to take (as is Pek†rkov†'s prose- style: half mock-Kerouac, half Hallmark Card), but the Czechoslovakia the book presents is of interest: it isn't the decaying sophistication of Kundera, or the ironic memory-pastoral of Skvorecky, but a polluted, prefab wasteland of truck- and industrial-fumes, of poor-quality food, of wretched public transportation. The determined and spangled preenings that Pek†rkov† has her character perform are against this backdrop—and the contrast is notable. Read full book review >