‘Spaceman’ Book Ending & Differences From Netflix Film: What Happens In ‘Spaceman Of Bohemia’?


Jaroslav Kalfar’s book, Spaceman of Bohemia, can be seen as a political satire that deals with the Velvet Revolution, state corruption, and a broken marriage. Johan Renck’s film only deals with the latter part, which centers around the couple, Jakub and Lenka Prochazka, and the affairs of their tragic marriage. Now, it is beyond my understanding why the creators of the Netflix Spaceman film decided to ignore the whole point of the book, but let’s just say this is how the streaming platform has been lately: playing too safe for their own good. As far as Jaroslav Kalfar’s book is concerned, I’ll try to bring all the important elements of his text into this article so as to point out what the film missed.

Book Spoiler Alert

Jakub’s Childhood

While sitting alone in a completely empty space shuttle, Jakub Prochazka not only reminisced about his wife, Lenka, but also brought up memories of his childhood in Streda, where he used to live at his grandfather’s house. Jakub’s grandfather was a simple butcher. He spent most of his days feeding his pigs and the nights in a local bar. He loved to celebrate Killing Day, where he would skin the fat swine, Louda, and treat the guests with its meat. Yes, the pig and the blood we saw in the Spaceman film were part of Jakub’s childhood memories. Jakub’s grandmother and mother were simple housewives, while his father was a collaborator and a member of the party’s secret police. Jakub was only a child when the Velvet Revolution took over the entire country and liberated the Czech Republic from its communist rule. The young Jakub didn’t understand the politics of the nation very well, but he could see constant fear on his father’s face. The informer had become an enemy of the people in the newly formed government and was branded as a criminal. One day, Jakub got the news of his tragic demise along with the news of his mother dying in a cable car accident on Mount Hoher Dachstein. After his parents’ deaths, Jakub was raised by his grandparents, and it was only the beginning of the issues in his life.

The Shoe Man

Perhaps the Shoe Man was my favorite part of Jaroslav Kalfar’s book. Originally named Radislav Zajic, the Shoe Man was a simple college student before the Velvet Revolution took place. In the Red Regime, Radislav had written revolutionary poems, just as a dare to impress someone, but he never intended to share or publish them. However, some of his fellow pupils took it seriously and spread it around. It soon became a cry of rebellion. It is to be noted that Radislav never intentionally did any of it, yet he was arrested by none other than Jakub’s father and was taken to a secret police headquarters, where he was first introduced to the Iron Shoe. The book implied that the man of poetry was brutally tortured at the hands of Jakub’s father, which was why he visited Jakub’s family after the fall of the communist party in order to take revenge. However, I am not sure if revenge would be the appropriate word here, but for Jakub, it was.

In the new government, Radislav played the cards right and became a rich businessman who worked closely with the government. He used his connections to forge fake ownership of Jakub’s family house and, therefore, asked the family to vacate the premises in two weeks. Jakub’s grandfather didn’t have the means to fight a legal battle against the powerful Shoe Man, and therefore the family took all their belongings and moved to a rented apartment in Parizska. The new life was devastating for the old couple. Jakub’s grandfather didn’t have his farm anymore. He had lost his existence and soon fell into illness. Jakub had to see his grandparents die an untimely death, all because of the Shoe Man, and therefore decided to become a hero in the new government so that one day he could cleanse his family name.

Lenka and the Miscarriage

Jakub had always been a lonely man, haunted by a traumatic childhood. Yet he focused all his energies on achieving his goal until he met Lenka on the street one day. The two shared food and wine and quickly grew fond of each other. Lenka was an artist who loved to paint, while Jakub was simply ambitious without any proper objective. Jakub didn’t particularly know how to deal with emotions, and simply running away from them seemed like the best option to him. It was what happened when Lenka suffered her first miscarriage, and Jakub spent the rest of his days in his office, believing it would ease the pain. Things were never really the same after that.

Lenka tried giving her marriage one more chance, but the couple couldn’t conceive. Above all, Jakub had grown distant, and that was when Senator Tuma gave him the offer to volunteer for a space mission, which he took without much thought. Jakub had told the Shoe Man in his childhood that he would become an astronaut, and it was Jakub’s moment to prove his worth. But for Lenka, it was another excuse for Jakub to run away from his responsibilities. She tried to keep in touch with him while he was in space, but soon realized that she was quickly losing herself in the process. Everything was about Jakub, and Lenka had no identity left. She felt it would be better if she just walked away and started a new life somewhere else.

Jakub’s Return to Earth

After the entire fiasco that took place in space, Jakub was finally saved by a Russian spacecraft, NashaSlava1. It was a little joke that destiny had played on him by sending the Russians for his rescue and did amuse Jakub a bit. The Netflix film ended with Jakub being rescued by the South Koreans, with the help of whom he was able to contact Lenka once again. But the point at which the Spaceman film ended was where the final act of the book began.

While the entire nation believed that Jakub had died in space, the Russians took him hostage to interrogate him on Earth. And as soon as Jakub found out about their true intentions, he sabotaged their landing and managed to escape. He then contacted his friend, Petr Koukal, from the space mission, and with his help, he found a place in Zlicin. After his return to the planet, Jakub wanted to remain dead, and he was done being a hero for the state. He did want to contact Lenka and tell her that he was alive, but after reading the manuscript of her session with the therapist, Dr. Kuřák, Jakub had a change of heart. He decided to visit Lenka’s new apartment to meet her one last time, but couldn’t gather enough courage to face her and therefore walked away as a ghost. It was the end of Jakub and Lenka’s story. Lenka had rebuilt her life, and it was time for Jakub to do the same for himself.

Return to the Roots

As Lenka’s chapter came to an end, a news flash caught Jakub’s attention. He found out about a government scam where Prime Minister Tuma, along with his close friend and business tycoon Radislav Zajic, was arrested for siphoning cash from phony government contracts. Jakub quickly recognized the prime minister’s phantom adviser, who was none other than a monster from his past, The Shoe Man. Jakub had found a new purpose on Earth. He believed that it was the Shoe Man who plotted against him and sent him on a suicide mission in the outer space. He even blamed the Shoe Man for his broken marriage and therefore decided to confront him. 

Through his research, Jakub found out Zajic’s contact, who had been eagerly waiting for the call forever. However, at first, Zajic didn’t know that Jakub had survived, but he was happy that he did. They arranged a meeting, and Zajic took Jakub to the same spot where he first met his father: the secret police interrogation room. The Shoe Man told Jakub that he kept a close watch on his life’s events and frequently murmured his name in his sleep as he wasn’t able to forget what had happened in the past. He wanted to see if Jakub would end up becoming like his father, but he didn’t, which was quite a relief for the Shoe Man. However, he revealed that he didn’t directly send Jakub to space. Instead, he gave a name to Tuma, who gave Jakub a voluntary choice. Jakub decided to go because he wanted to do something great in life—live among the stars and planets, leaving humans behind.

The Shoe Man wanted Jakub to come back, as the news of his survival would clear Tuma’s name and help him make the nation great once again. But Jakub was done being a hero. He had no ambition left for it. He wanted to remain dead. Before leaving, the Shoe Man told Jakub a very simple thing. He told him that his hatred against his father gave birth to a business tycoon standing in front of him; otherwise, he would have been a simple chemist or a scientist. But after the arrest, they kicked him out of the university and took everything from his family. He wanted to do the same with Jakub, but it took him a long time to realize that whatever Jakub’s father did was his own choice. But the decision to live with it was in Shoe Man’s hands, and he could have made a better choice and let the past go, but he didn’t. He advised Jakub to not let anger dictate his life anymore. He was much better than his father, and he shouldn’t let the past cripple him. 

In the end, he gave Jakub the keys to his family house in Streda, where Jakub finally got settled in the end. He didn’t want to become a symbol of pride for his nation anymore. Nor did he want to become someone who violated others’ bodies and planned a coup. He just wanted to simply sow, harvest, and drink a bit before dinner and live the rest of his life in peace. And I hope that one day he will cross paths with Lenka again, but until then, it is a happy ending for both of them.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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