THE WORLD IS ROUND by Iva "Pekárková


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Czech ÉmigrÉ Pekárková, 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 FlÜchtlingen -- 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. Pekárková 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.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"