They say we don’t choose our neighbors and parents. But what to do if no one in the family, whether from the younger or older generation, understands us? This is what Vladimír, a divorced, fat, but career-successful man, born in socialism, working in capitalism, experiences in the new novel Fossils.
Although he earns money and financially supports the whole family, he is squeezed between his father and daughter like lunch meat in two pieces of toast. In the eyes of his father, he is a boring and worried workaholic, while for his daughter, a climate activist, he is the destroyer of the planet: Vladimir makes a living as a software developer for airlines.
All three heroes reveal their inner life motivations and truths in less than 190 pages of text: from writing a conspiracy novel about the end of the world and the destruction of Europe (the grandfather) to trying not to expand the family with more children, because someone simply does not want children in this world (the daughter). However, the core of the mutual misunderstanding is not casual sex, climate anxiety or conspiracy theories: All three characters simply want others to take them seriously.
Kašpárek presents us with an intergenerational battle in which each reader will find a different favorite. We agree with Vladimír, who despite the hardships of his youth in socialist Czechoslovakia and despite the rigid upbringing of his unnecessarily harsh father, achieved something, learned to use computers and was able to become rich with his knowledge.
At the same time, we also understand Vladimir’s daughter, fighting against something as big as the climate crisis. Her stress and blaming of the world is opposed by her grandfather, who – apart from the fear of darker-skinned migrants – does not solve anything at all. Kašpárek’s characters are perfectly ambivalent, you can easily fall in love with them or hate them.
Novels about right-wing fathers and their left-wing daughters have already been published in the Czech Republic. An example would be a novel Tire by Ondřej Hübl, (Druhé město, 2022) where the rich boss of a company dealing with artificial intelligence buys his daughter a trip to the communism of the 1950s. However, where Hübl plays with genres ranging from comedy to Orwellian dystopia, Kašpárek remains civil and leaves room for dialogue between characters and readers.
Vladimir tries to talk to his daughter. Sometimes he slips into ironic remarks of the type when we went to the Maldives together, you didn’t mind, known from the conversations of all kinds of Oscars and Mojmírs of Viewegh prose. At other times, we sense that he is trying to understand his daughter, just as she is trying to understand him – although the task is almost impossible.
Read a review of Ondřej Hübl Opon’s novel
There are many differences between the three heroes, but they all have something in common. Julie and her father laugh at Grandpa’s fascist tendencies, Julie and Grandpa enjoy their time together by ironically glossing over Vladimir’s pursuit of money. And Vladimír and his father shake their heads together at Julia’s ecological panic and her asexuality. This is very nice about the book: The reader does not have one hero with one opinion commenting on the otherness of the world around him. We stand behind all three heroes, sometimes we feel sorry for all of them, only to be incredibly ashamed of them in a moment.
Order in Fosilia is disrupted by a pandemic. The world stops and all three cope with the unprecedented situation in their own way. For some it is a moment of peace, when even the planet can breathe for a while, for others it is a moment that enables research in the history of their ancestors.
Fossilie is a novel that was missing in Czech literature. Kašpárk’s story shows worlds that cannot intersect. It is not just a matter of differences in life philosophies, but also in language.
As someone closer in age to Vladimir’s daughter than Vladimir himself, I must highlight the capture of modern English usage that has infiltrated Julia’s speech. Kašpárk’s precisely overheard dialogue also reveals what is not said between the characters.
Fossil’s conclusion is as ambivalent as its characters. Although the three generations of the novel do not understand each other, it is clear that even in future times things will not be better between parents and children. A great novel shows that everyone has a truth, but no one has a patent on it.