My rough translation of Petra's first post, banged out last night and this morning:
"First of all I'm enormously happy it worked out. Now it's up to the book. The umbilical cord is severed. Now the only question is whether or not anyone in faraway America will notice you, dear book . . . Alex said that they don't have any novels from contemporary Mongolia yet, so that sounds hopeful . . .
"When Alex and I were in Chicago two weeks ago to promote the book, Andrew Wachtel from Northwestern University Press said: Americans can talk on and on about things they don't know about at all, while Europeans can't talk about anything even when they know a lot about it. He was referring to academics but I have a hunch it's the same way with writers. Or at least with me. What could I say about my own book? That it’s a piece of my life? Not interesting. An attempt at a portrait of the Mongol mentality? Written by a Czech? Hmm. But don’t Americans write about other countries, too? That it’s a portrait of a post-communist country wrestling with the challenges of newly gotten freedom like the Czechs in the 1990s? In one review in a German newspaper they wrote that the book was a metaphor for post-revolution Eastern Europe. That it isn’t actually about Mongolia. Sometimes that’s what I tell people — the ones who are afraid of Mongolia and who are interested more in good old Europe than in Central Asia — to try to appeal to them.
"Luckily, at the readings in New York and Chicago, the audience had enough questions that I didn’t have to babble on in desperation.
"It was my first time in Chicago. I lived more than a year in New York at one point, and there was a time when I wanted to stay there for good. Until I started to panic that I was losing my Czech and I was talking to myself in Czech so I wouldn’t get out of practice. Without Czech is like having one leg for me. So I live in Prague. My books travel. I wave across the ocean at them from my windowless room that I climb up a ladder to reach, the former darkroom where I’m now at work on my next novel."