When Iva Pekárková talks about sex, even her translator blushes. Discussing her erotically charged first novel, Truck Stop Rainbows, over lunch one day, the Czech novelist cheerfully ran through some possible English alternatives for the F-word — until she noticed her American translator looking distinctly uncomfortable.
Pekárková, 29, shrugs as she recounts the incident. ”American people don’t seem to be so fond of f—ing, so they don’t have good homonyms and synonyms for it. Nothing colorful,” she says.
In Truck Stop Rainbows, just out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux (and previously issued in Czech by Canada’s Sixty-Eight Publishers), Pekárková paints sex in far bolder colors than the male writers who have made Czech literature famous for its libidinous content. Pekárková’s heroine, Fialka, a young woman with a fancy for East European truckers, is easily the equal of Milan Kundera’s sexual athletes, but she’s much more candid.
In 1985, when Pekárková was studying microbiology, she escaped the grayness of Prague with the help of a friendly British trucker who drove her to the Italian border and pointed out a good way to cross over on foot. Since then, she has eaten out of garbage cans in Venice, lived in an Austrian refugee camp, and trekked through Asia. At the moment she drives a bright yellow taxi in a city she loves for its vivid palette — New York.
Even though she has been threatened at knife point, Pekárková is intrepid enough to enjoy taking fares to the perilous South Bronx. In a place most New Yorkers find grim, she is enthralled by the graffiti and by the splashes of psychedelic colors everywhere.
She’s equally daring in her writing. An upcoming book features a love affair between a 17-year-old girl and a 58-year-old man. ”In Czechoslovakia,” she says, ”we do not have many things to do, so sex is like a great occupation.”
For Pekárková, so is writing about it.