Part thriller, part domestic tragedy, at once political and intensely personal, Ivan Kilma's epicly scaled new novel is an inquest into the compromises that turned even the best citizens of Czechoslovakia into accomplices of its late totalitarian regime. "Enormously powerful."-New York Times Book Review.
When a beautiful stranger comes to hear him preach, Pastor Daniel Vedra soon finds himself falling in love with another man's wife. With the brilliance and humanity that have made him a major figure in world literature, Ivan Klima explores the universal themes of love, adultery and God.
Ivan Klima has been acclaimed by The Boston Globe as "a literary gem who is too little appreciated in the West" and a "Czech master at the top of his game." In No Saints or Angels, a Washington Post Best Book of 2001, Klima takes us into the heart of contemporary Prague, where the Communist People's Militia of the Stalinist era marches headlong into the drug culture of the present. Kristyna is in her forties, the divorced mother of a rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter, Jana. She is beginning to love a man fifteen years her junior, but her joy is clouded by worry — Jana has been cutting school, and perhaps using heroin. Meanwhile Kristyna's mother has forced on her a huge box of personal papers left by her dead father, a tyrant whose Stalinist ideals she despised. No Saints or Angels is a powerful book in which "Mr. Klima's keen sense of history, his deep compassion for the ordinary people caught up in its toils, and his abiding awareness of the fragility and resilience of human life shine through…. Like Anton Chekhov, Mr. Klima is a writer able to show us what's extraordinary about ordinary life." (The Washington Times). "Ultimately, it's Prague, with its centuries of glory and misery, that gives No Saints or Angels its humane power." — Melvin Jules Bukiet, The Washington Post Book World" A compassionate realist, [Klima] unflinchingly presents the problems facing modern Prague and civilization in general… [and] fills it with mercy." — Jennie Yabroff, San Francisco Chronicle "Stirring and valuable." — Jules Verdone, The Hartford Courant
One of the last artistic expressions of life under communism, this novel captures the atmosphere in Prague between 1983 and 1987, where a dance could be broken up by the secret police, a traffic offense could lead to surveillance, and where contraband books were the currency of the underworld.
Ivan Klima was in the United States when Russian tanks entered Prague in 1968 but, against the advice of friends, he returned home. He became a dissident, writing books (never published) that were invariably inspired by Czechoslovakia's repressive regime. But what happens to a rebel artist when there is nothing left to rebel against? This question informs Klima's powerful novel, "Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light," which describes life before, during, and after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. It is the story of Pavel, a middle-aged television cameraman working uneasily within the boundaries set by the regime, who dreams of one day making a film — a searing portrait of his times — that the authorities will never allow. But after the collapse of communism, Pavel finds he is unprepared for this new world of unlimited freedoms. He never quite gets around to making that film; his time is taken up instead with lucrative small jobs — a TV spot, a commercial, a porn film. This is a masterful novel that focuses on the most pressing issue confronting the individual in the former Soviet bloc countries today: how to live one's life when one is truly free.
Ranging over nearly three decades, the stories collected in Ivan Klíma's offer a fine cross section of the Czech writer's career. Yet the book also traces the misunderstandings and frustrations, the hopes and disenchantments of an entire nation-where, ironically enough, Klíma's creations were banned until the mid-1990s. How does this fictional barometer work? The earlier tales, which tend toward dissections of private life, seldom mention the Communist regime-yet their protagonists are so thoroughly warped by political circumstance that even love becomes an avatar of control and constraint. In the later, post-perestroika stories, Klíma's characters explore their newfound freedom. Yet that, too, turns out to be something of a mixed bag, in both the public and private sector. No wonder the judge in "It's Raining Out" finds his new beat-divorce court-nearly as dispiriting as the old regime's political trials:
He would divorce couples on grounds of infidelity or mutual incompatibility. Some of them were husbands and wives who had stopped living together long ago, but in spite of that, he could never rid himself of the conviction that most of the divorces were unnecessary, that people were attempting to escape the inescapable: their own emptiness, their own incapacity to share their lives with another person.
For Klíma's countryman Milan Kundera desire represents a zone of freedom: an assertion of the unique self in the face of a collective state. For Klíma, alas, eros is yet another venue for repression. Suggesting that national politics might inscribe itself onto the deepest contours of the individual, he's able to write about both at once. It's a grim equation, perhaps. But Klíma's mastery of the medium, and his rare emotional intelligence, make for a superb exposition of love among the ruins.
In his intimate autobiography, spanning six decades that included war, totalitarianism, censorship, and the fight for democracy, acclaimed Czech writer Ivan Klíma reflects back on his remarkable life and this critical period of twentieth-century history.
Klíma’s story begins in the 1930s on the outskirts of Prague where he grew up unaware of his concealed Jewish heritage. It came as a surprise when his family was transported to the Terezín concentration camp — and an even greater surprise when most of them survived. They returned home to a city in economic turmoil and falling into the grip of Communism. Against this tumultuous backdrop, Klíma discovered his love of literature and matured as a writer. But as the regime further encroached on daily life, arresting his father and censoring his work, Klíma recognized the party for what it was: a deplorable, colossal lie. The true nature of oppression became clear to him and many of his peers, among them Josef Škvorecký, Milan Kundera, and Václav Havel. From the brief hope of freedom during the Prague Spring of 1968 to Charter 77 and the eventual collapse of the regime in 1989’s Velvet Revolution, Klíma’s revelatory account provides a profoundly rich personal and national history.
The narrator of Ivan Klima's novel has temporarily abandoned his work-in-progress — an essay on Kafka — and exchanged his writer's pen for the orange vest of a Prague road-sweeper. As he works, he meditates on Czechoslovakia, on Kafka, on life, on art and, obsessively, on his passionate and adulterous love affair with the sculptress Daria. Gradually he admits the impossibility of being at once an honest writer and an honest lover, and with that agonizing discovery comes a moment of choice.