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An audacious novel set in a near-future America under the dual manipulations of technology and surveillance, A Brief History of Living Forever tells the epic, exhilarating story of a long-lost brother and sister on a mission to reclaim their mother from oblivion.
 
When Adela discovers she has a terminal illness, her thoughts turn to Tereza, the American-raised daughter she gave up at birth. Leaving behind her moody, grown son, Roman, in their native Czech village, she flies to the United States to find the long-lost daughter who never knew her. Yet the country, in the year 2029, is steeped in surveillance and has adopted an unapologetic nationalism—a very different place from the open and accepting one Adela experienced decades earlier, when, as a teenager high on the promise of America, she eloped with a filmmaker and starred in his cult sci-fi movie.
 
Now, in New York City, with time running out, Adela reunites with Tereza, who is working as the star researcher for two suspicious biotech moguls hellbent on developing a “god pill” to extend human life indefinitely. But before Tereza can find a cure for Adela, her mother dies mysteriously. Unbeknownst to Tereza, her body is whisked away by the American government to a mass grave for undocumented immigrants in the swampy wastelands of what was once Florida. Distraught, Tereza travels to the Czech Republic to convince Roman, the brother she’s never met, to join her in rescuing their mother’s remains from oblivion, with the intent of bringing her home to rest in Czech soil.
 
Narrated from the beyond by Adela, A Brief History of Living Forever is a high-wire act of storytelling that demonstrates once more Jaroslav Kalfar’s endless powers of invention. By turns insightful, moving, and funny, the novel blends an immigrant mother’s heartbreaking journey through the American dream with her children’s quest to reclaim her from a country that would erase any record of her existence. Above all, it is a reminder that neither space nor time can sever our connection to the ones we love.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

"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."
Kirkus Reviews
"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
"Spaceman of Bohemia is the best, most enjoyably heartbreaking, most fun book you'll read this year. On the surface, you'll see affinities with Gary Shteyngart, with The Martian, with Kelly Link. But Jaroslav Kalfar's voice is entirely his own. I beg you: take this strange, hilarious, profound, life-affirming trip into literary outer space."—Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Half a Life
"Spaceman of Bohemia is a wise and elegant work composed of its own unique ethereal grace-a hauntingly beautiful story of solitude, hope, family, and love that transcends, uplifts, carries the reader away."—Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
"Spaceman of Bohemia is unforgettable: a work of breathtaking scope and heart, and a reflection of humanity that's raw and strange and profound and true."—Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies, winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
"An exhilarating concoction of history, social commentary, and irony. Reading like Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 crossed with a Milan Kundera novel, set in a Philip K. Dick universe, with a nod to Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, it manages to be singularly compelling while still providing mass appeal. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (starred review)
"Kalfar's writing has the same hyperactivity, and fidgety contempt for generic boundaries, as that of the young Safran Foer.... Part space opera, part folk tale, his novel is also a love song to the city of Prague.... Funny, humane and oddly down-to-earth in ways that its scenario cannot possibly convey."
Claire Armitstead, The Guardian
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