Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Truck Stop Rainbows - Iva Pekarkova

Novels and literature from erstwhile communist countries have always been popular in the west and when I bought this book, I considered it as another one in that category. however, this book has taken me by surprise. Instead of the expected banter of the regime and their struggle to escape the iron fists and hard rules, this gives more human angle to the same, alienations of individuals within the society and within the family.

Fialka , is a young rebelleous woman of Prague , 25yrs , still has a university student pass where she is enrolled for psychology, likes to overcome the monotonous urban communist life by doing nature photography for the local magazine. Her friend Patrick, who is crippled and bound to the living room and clutches was into photography as a hobby and a plumber as a profession.

She escape from Prague on every possible opportunity , on hitchhiking trips to the interiors to photograph wild flowers and engages in many one-night affairs with the czech truck drivers. After Patrick is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the waiting time for wheel chair is 6-7 years according to the authorities, she takes up the task of getting some hard currency to buy him a wheel chair on her own. She starts picking up the western truck drivers en-route to the eastern exotic destinations , selling herself for money and the adventure. She falls in love with a Swedish truck driver, for whom Prague become a regular stopover on her onward and return journey. She rejects the offer by her lover to move in with him to Sweden , but not before securing the precious wheel chair for Patrick.

While that is the plot of the novel, Pekarkova examines the state of the people through the complex portrayal of her narrator - young , rebellious, adventurous and angry. A fresh look at the Czech society, under the communist regime, under decay and soviet influence. Her parents and only sibling are killed in an accident which the authorities have closed as a drunken driving case. During one of her later visit to the accident sites ( while hitchhiking) she gets to know the truth from a local shop keeper as a Russian military truck is involved in the case. Using her sexuality as the only tool to fight against the system, Fialka tries to come out of the shackles. In the process, she goes through major changes both physically ( in terms of her dressing , appearance and makeup) and mentally ( she is surprised at her ease to get adjusted to her new way of living) , before a she realises the effects on her. Though immune to all that is happening around him, Patrick too gets attracted by the eastern philosophy and re-incarnation before deciding to call it quits.

All of us are in search of the rainbows in our life. In this fascinating novel by the czech author Iva Pakarkova, it has used as a metaphor of something not within reach. A very feminine novel, beautifully written and thought provoking.

Truck Stop Rainbows
Iva Pekarkova Translated by David Powelstock
266 Pages
Vintage Books

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