How could one not be smitten by the first two sentences of this book?
The sea is only water. Billions and billions of cubic metres of greenish-blue water pregnant with tons of salt.
And on the same first page
'the wind spiralling up my jeans... tries to embarrass me by constantly blowing under my buttocks. It is licking all over my body'
Such a book I have not seen since reading They're a Weird Mob. (Now there's a challenge for those younger than me.)
Sardonically hilarious the immediate impressions of a bayside middle class suburb, but I'm sure, not too many of the residents would think like the novel's main character, a Czech migrant whose ego started to go off lead somewhere between the iron curtain and arriving in Australia, and there is something very Edna Everidge in his observations about black coffee with a slice of lemon.
After some bitchiness about the political ownership of Czech artistic culture, the character, '... more a Stuchl Zbynek's than a MV.Dr. Zbynek Stuchl!' (p.80), portrays his meeting with suburban dogs and his handling of them, which leads into the subject of the entire book: relationships with animals, people and adventurous travel.
Job changing is a constant in this story. For both Stuchl and the pregnant Líba, factories are exchanged for crop harvesting, travelling by train with dogs, and friendsanother part of the story I won't spoil for you, but believe me, any Australian would not have been able to trust their eyesight!
Those of you, who have experienced the drudgery and boredom and the spirit-destroying necessity of having a job at all, would find yourselves laughing at Stuchl Zbynek's laughter.
There is an eco-awareness thread winding through this story, and also amusing is political in-correctness which is quite fashionable but very tongue-in-cheek such as killing pigeons but not a fox.
Writing appreciatively about aspects of the Australian landscape, and commenting expansively on architecture, wide-bodied ships, public gardens and prestige cars, this writer misses nothing, and the picture he evokes, of long white shorts and socks up to the knees as summer dress for men, is one we can all visualise (not a mention of the safari suit).
Stehlik's Stuchl displays an understanding of things obviously taken for granted by 'white Australia'; issues resembling those of Yes, Minister; the sometimes obvious Americanization of a lifestyle of people on a supposedly isolated continent seemingly far removed from the violence of war and deprivation and the street danger of Washington gun laws.
I have regurgitated only a sample of what I consider to be the funniest saddest first and last book by a writer of great insight.
Vale! Hynek Stehlik and thanks for a wonderful read.