We check into the Marriott hotel near the Municipal House in Prague. The moment I’ve been anticipating for weeks arrives. The bellman comes out of the baggage room with a stack of books, which had been sent there by my publisher, Mlada Fronta. They’re wrapped in clear plastic, five to a package. I want to grab the top pack off the bellman’s cart, to tear it apart, and start admiring. Instead, I think: is that what Pat Conroy would do? No way!
I act casual, pretending that I do this regularly. When the bellman spots my photo staring at him through the covering, he asks: “Vy?” (“You?”). I answer “Ano,” (“Yes”) and take satisfaction from the admiring look on his face. As soon as he leaves our room, I rip off the wrapper and begin the examination of the product of 75 years of my life and more than six years of writing, rewriting, editing, and more rewriting.
There really is a book with my name on its cover! It’s called DLOUHA CESTA DOMU (LONG JOURNEY HOME), and it’s beautiful.
That evening, Sue and I celebrate at a nearby pub, under the stars. I have my favorite dish — svickova — accompanied by the world’s finest beer, and we toast the book. I am an author!