Dance of the Castaways

Love, Death, Pandemic

Original title: Tanec trosečníků
Publisher: Práh, Prague, 2020
Mladá fronta, Prague, 2006
280 pages
Age: 12+, Children's Literature


  • Evangelischer Buchpreis (German literary prize)
  • Friedrich-Gerstäcker Award for YA literature
The book was published in Germany (2007) and Serbia (2011)

A teenage Romani boy is one of the very few people to survive a rampant pandemic. While everything around collapses and death rules everywhere, he learns a lot about life. A dramatic coming-of-age story about the power of love and friendship in apocalyptic times.

The protagonist of this dystopian YA novel is eighteen-year-old Romani boy Mojmír Demeter. He grew up in an orphanage and trained as a cook. Cooking is his passion and he dreams of his own restaurant. But things turn out differently. As a child, Mojmír would spend his summers in the mountains, in the cottage of his adoptive grandmother. Now the old woman is seriously ill but refuses to be hospitalized, she wants to die at home. Mojmír decides to leave Prague and to stay with her. While she is slowly dying he takes care of her, trying to alleviate her suffering as much as he can. Surrounded by pristine mountain landscapes, Mojmír does not know much about the horrible scenario unfolding in the cities around; about the rampant pandemic that is spreading rapidly: a mysterious, extremely contagious disease which particularly affects people living in large cities, under stress, under the influence of the media. The disease deprives them of their physical form, they just fade away.

When the food supply in the cottage runs out, Mojmír has to go to the nearby city, where he sees that everything has collapsed. The streets are empty of people, many houses stand open, abandoned cars are scattered around. Only the health police patrol the streets searching for survivors who may have been infected, but these hide in fear.

After Mojmír‘s beloved grandma dies he has to teach himself to drive a car in order to give her a dignified funeral. He mourns her, but soon some new people enter his life: a warmhearted couple and also the sixteen-year-old Jessica. She wants to be a famous musical dancer and she dislikes Mojmír. As there is almost no one around, the two stumble upon each other again and again. Soon Mojmír is joined by an eight-year-old Vietnamese boy, the only person left from a huge family. Mojmír and Jessica take care of him, until he gets shot by the health police. The two teenagers are left alone, slowly falling in love with each other. They understand that they are two of the last people on the planet, so they document their experiences for posterity.

I was thrilled with the book. The style is charming, readable, the content is very mature in thought, the characters are well-devised and the story set in the Jizera Mountains and a big city is attractive. In short, reading Procházková is an experience. Dance of the Castaways, which is vaguely reminiscent of The Day of the Triffids, is something I like to reread after a while, especially for the charm of the text and the beauty of the language.
A very strange and sensitive story that just grabs you, without unnecessary pathos or attempting to move you at any cost.
Procházková manages to enrich the story with the motifs of popular literature without slipping into superficial attractiveness and without losing sight of what is essential—the inner mind of a teenager and the problems he has to face.
Readers‘ reviews on www.cbdb.cz

Other books by Iva Procházková

Crime Fiction
Age: 12+, Children's Literature
Crime Fiction