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Spaceman of Bohemia Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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PRAISE FOR SPACEMAN OF BOHEMIA:
"Kalfar has much larger aims with Spaceman of Bohemia than to write a spry, madcap work of speculative fiction . . . He has such a lively mind and so many ideas to explore . . . Kalfar has an exhilarating flair for imagery. He writes boisterously and mordantly . . . His voice is distinct enough to leave tread marks . . . A frenetically imaginative first effort, booming with vitality and originality."
―Jennifer Senior, New York Times
"Spaceman of Bohemia gets heavy-but the story, like its protagonist, flies along weightlessly. A book like this lives and dies on the strength of its first-person voice, and in that regard, Kalfar triumphs. Jakub may be self-absorbed, but he's also charming, funny, and endearingly sympathetic."―Jason Heller, NPR
"In Jaroslav Kalfar's zany first novel . . . the spaceman, the alien, and all the rest of the book's extravagant conceptual furniture are merely metaphors for the human-scale issues that are its real concerns, in particular the collapse of Jakub's marriage to Lenka. That's not to say Kalfar hasn't done his research. There are lovingly detailed passages on the minutiae of life in zero gravity, but all the whizzy space business is harnessed to the basic question of what it means to leave and whether it's possible to come back. The alien acts as a Proustian trigger for Jakub's memories . . . But for all the strangeness of outer space, it is the writing about his home village, the place to which he longs to return and perhaps never can, that beats strongest in this wry, melancholy book."―Hari Kunzru, New York Times Book Review
The author skillfully splices a barbed picture of the Czech Republic between Jakub's misadventures in the cosmos. "These include floating free inside the dust cloud and hitching a ride on a clandestine Russian space shuttle. The book suggests that every national hero has a dark side, though you may have to leave Earth to see it."―Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal "Best New Fiction"
"Outer space, inner turmoil, fierce ambition and the hunger for love - all seem to boldly go where no novelist has gone before in Jaroslav Kalfar's audaciously moving debut, Spaceman of Bohemia...Eloquent, heart-stunning and rich in awe-inspiring prose, Spaceman of Bohemia flirts with how we leave our mark on history. But its real mission is to unravel what makes us human - and that, according to this wise, rapturous and original novel, is a connection to others."―Caroline Leavitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"Spaceman of Bohemia represents the fiery, funny launch of an exciting new voice. Jaroslav Kalfar, like a good literary astronaut, finds levity in gravity, and vice versa."―Sam Lipsyte, New York Times bestselling author of The Ask
"Spaceman of Bohemia should win many fans. With its interplanetary shenanigans and lessons in Czech history, this zany satirical debut is bursting at the seams."―Tibor Fischer, Guardian UK
"A supercharged, voice-driven romp."
―Meredith Turits, Extra Crispy
"Blend Bradbury and Lem with Saint-Exupéry and perhaps a little Kafka, and you get this talky, pleasing first novel by Czech immigrant writer Kalfar....a book built on sly, decidedly contrarian humor. Blending subtle asides on Czech history, the Cold War, and today's wobbly democracy, Kalfar's confection is an inventive, well-paced exercise in speculative fiction. An entertaining, provocative addition to the spate of literary near-future novels that have lately hit the shelves."
"Spaceman of Bohemia is an out-of-this-world look at all our beautiful smallnesses, from the cells of our biology to the bacterial minutiae of one broken heart. The roar of revolution and governmental injustice is cast against the depths of our emotions and the bottomless, grateful silence of the stars. Jaroslav Kalfar has spun an unforgettable tale, a poignant interplanetary work that collapses the distance between us with the beauty of its language and the unstoppable wonder of this universe he's created."
―Samantha Hunt, author of Mr. Splitfoot
About the Author
Jaroslav Kalfar was born and raised in Prague, Czech Republic, and immigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen. He earned an MFA at New York University, where he was a Goldwater Fellow and a nominee for the inaugural E. L. Doctorow Fellowship. He lives in Brooklyn. This is his first novel.
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It is not a perfect book by any means; it meanders and rambles and goes off on digressions and lines of thought that can be tedious. However, at the end of the day (or, rather, of the book), there is a sweetness and acceptance of some of the bumps that life puts in our way, along with some sadness that things don't necessarily work out the way you'd like.
While it's impossible to exclude or ignore some of the excesses of the book (those digressions noted earlier), Kalfar definitely has talent. He uses a mixture of devices -- straight narrative, dialogue and an epistolary set of transcripts from the hero's wife's psychotherapy sessions, among others -- to make his point. The characters seem quite real as well.
So while he needs some more discipline, there is a good and maybe a great writer here, and I look forward to his next work(s).
Very enjoyable and enlightening.
The prose and plotting is also well done, though it does careen out of control at times and characters tend to say the kind of dialogue that no one ever says in real life, only in first novels. But that is a small complaint because the read is engrossing overall and I found myself invested in the characters and always enjoying the book when I picked it up.
In short, buy this book! It will make for a nice summer read. Looking forward to more from this author.
Yes there are somewhat obvious nods to Kafka (possibly the most famous Prazak writer), and maybe a few shades of Hrabal and Hasek too, but overall it's very different from the usual American or British writing.
The denouement is rather contrived and convoluted and unsatisfying. Otherwise a very enjoyable read.