Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Šest miliard Amerik

Šest miliard Amerik is Iva Pekárková's guide to life in the US. Being a fan of Pekárková, I expected a lot more from this account of her ten-year stay in the United States. When I ordered the book through the Interlibrary loan I had no idea that the only copy available was in the catalog of the National Library of the Czech Republic.

Šest miliard Amerik arrived to America about three weeks after I placed the order. According to my librarian friend Allan, it is amazing that the Czechs trust the Americans and send their books overseas since there is no way for recourse if anything happens with the book.

My disappointment with the book has little to do with Pekárková's skill to enchant the reader with stories from a far-away land. On the contrary, the text reveals her skill to write for a specific audience and about a specific place - a talent that shines through in all of her previous works. Šest miliard Amerik is tailored for the Czech reader who is interested in learning about different aspects of life in America. It is written with Pekárková's recognition of the Czech-ness: things are explained in Czech language and through Czech concepts. Pekárková's style is sincere, revealing, at points journalistic, and also educational. There are numerous footnotes on the different terms that are part of the popular culture; some have made it into colloquial Czech language. The curious reader will learn about the drinking laws, driving habits, eating in the new world through the author's critical eye.

Šest miliard Amerik is a guide for the curious Czech; it could be a coffee-table book; it may well be seen as a tool to learn about the popular American culture; and in the end, it is an insightful critique of the birthplace of contemporary popular culture by a society that lives by its standards and presumably wants to learn about its history. After all, it was just yesterday that the Czechs and the Americans finally came to an agreement to have the U.S. missile shield built in the Czech Republic.

This is how Šest miliard Amerik begins:

Strávila jsem jedenáct let v Americe a vdala se za Američana. Měla bych o Americe hodně vědět. Přesto mě otázka „Poslyš, JAKÁ je vlastně ta Amerika?“ znovu a znovu uvádí do rozpaků. Tahle otázka mě totiž uzemňuje svou bezbřehostí…
V dnešní době na zeměkouli existuje nějakých šest miliard Amerik. Každý má svou vlastní Ameriku, ať se mu to líbí, nebo ne. Tahle kniha je pokusem definovat jednu jedinou z nich — tu mou.

Nakladatelstvi Petrov

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