Frihet og rotløshet: Michael Konupeks 'Rutenia'
Prague-born Michael Konupek emigrated to Norway in 1977 and became a recognized prose writer there. His novel Rutenia (Ruthenia) from 2013 is a sequel of sorts to his earlier novel I sin tid (1993, At One Point), which told the story of a Czech exile trying to cope with the reality of a new life in a foreign country – Norway. The main character and narrator of Rutenia is also a Czech exile living in Norway (arriving in 1975), and some of the characters from I sin tid also appear in this novel. This time, however, the story involves an even more manifold set of mutually clashing and intermingling cultures: apart from contrasting northern with central Europe, the novel also deals with the differences between Western Europe and the Soviet Union/Russia. The protagonist would love to forget his past, but he cannot help constantly thinking about his roots and the curious multicultural circumstances that had determined his fate. What plays a crucial role in his musings on his life is Ruthenia, a region in Eastern Europe where his mother, who moved to Prague in 1945, was born. Ruthenia has had many different names and its borders have shifted many times due to frequent struggles between various powers; for some time, it was even an autonomous part of Czechoslovakia. The 'country' of Ruthenia comes to reflect the main character's ambivalent feelings: it is both a real region from which it is best to escape and, at the same time, the promised land.