An artist reflects on fateful events during his youth in postwar Europe as he seeks meaning and peace in his life in this memoir.
Following a short preface, Tomicic (Die Autobahn, 2018) tells of walking with his 4-year-old daughter in a city park in an unspecified year. She remarked on the sheer volume of flowers in the grass by the side of a road. However, he needed her to point out the tiny flora, which he wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. He says that this incident reminded him of his own childhood in Europe, just after World War II. Many residents of his unnamed city weren’t coping well, he says: “It was a very upsetting situation to look at people, lying in the street, positioned like soldiers in the army and waiting for the enemy to react.” There were food lines and a general lack of resources, but he was still determined to go to art school. He was encouraged by the approval of an artist neighbor and a gift of a sketchbook from his uncle. Later, he found art college to be quite strict; if students were late once, or forgot their art supplies, they could be expelled. Nevertheless, he was thrilled to pursue his ambition. Tomicic offers readers a slim but purposeful memoir that encourages readers not only to live their dream, but also to find out what’s truly meaningful in life. Some may find that the titular metaphor of the rose in the road is a bit hard to grasp, but the author’s tales beautifully illustrate his points about the significance of key life events. For example, he tells of how one day, to his horror, he realized that he didn’t have a pencil for an art class. Knowing that this could mean the end of his education, he begged a fellow student to loan him one—and what happened next decided the future course of the author’s career. Throughout this remembrance, Tomicic’s prose is spare and elegant. As he chronicles his time as a hopeful young person in a city reduced to rubble, he wisely chooses to highlight insight over sentimentality.
An enjoyable, clever book about self-determination.