A friend, recently recapping my second novel on Facebook, impuned the character of its catalyst, that gentle lady.
Her honor at the stake, I saw no choice but to tarry long enough to explain the curious circumstances of her last night on earth.
Here then, a quick synopsis, for posterity.
Sergei. The narrator. Born 1922 in the Volga Hills, veteran of the war, prominent scientist â€” but banished to Bohemia for being a pain in the butt during the 60s. There to teach chemistry. Our hero. He limps.
And encounters a local woman, his age, late one night while brooding about town. This is Prague 1986, as Chernobyl is about to blow. Earlier that evening his younger Czech girlfriend had laughed away his marriage proposal.
The new woman — who would certainly bristle to be called a prostitute — squires him about as the night lengthens, testing various hotspots.
He deflects her questions by telling her he’s a philosopher — but she is careful to introduce him as her “American philosopher friend” to avoid having doors slammed in their faces, the sad Russians being generally despised in the Bohemian underground.
Later, finally back at her place, she expires during misfortunate attempts at love making. The circumstances are obscure, but our narrator protests his innocence. To some ears, perhaps, persuasively.
The next day the papers call it murder most foul — and blame it on an American Philosopher who will soon be apprehended.
But sooner than later a clever policeman catches the true scent. And so the game’s afoot.
The Prague Surrealists, among whom Segei these many years has found what little comfort he can in that baroque backwater of a burg, are of course no help. The twittering fools.
Nor are the guardians of the Soviet embassy, who discover, upon answering his knock, that Sergei’s knowledge of certain weapon systems is entirely obsolete. And so set him free. So to speak.
But perhaps his great friend, Ludek, urologist to the nomenclatura of the Castle, psychotherapist to their children, well connected to be sure â€” But Sergei daresn’t confess. Such a sordid affair …
And then finds that Ludek has invited to the weekly Surrealist group session a pushy American Philospher. ?!? Just happened to be passing thru town.
Well. Circumstances, of course, compel all. In the end Sergei has no choice but to flee to Berlin, helter skelter, where, who knows, things may work out.
Thus his memoir: MY ESCAPE TO THE WEST.