Translations of Ivan Klima
by Paul Wilson
on a title below to view covers, summaries and full bibliographical
Spirit of Prague, Ivan Klima. Granta Books, London. (1994)
Klima witnessed the horrors of Nazi occupation during the
war (he began to write in the concentration camp at Terezin);
the Stalinist regimes of the fifties; the celebrations of
the Prague Spring (Klima was editor of Czechoslovakia's most
important literary magazine); the despair of the Soviet invasion
in 1968; the bravery of the members of Charter 77; the triumph
of the Velvet Revolution in 1989; and the uncertainty following
the formal division of his country last year.
collection of essays by one of Europe's most brilliant and
humane novelists charts five critical decades in the history
of Czechoslovakia. In the title essay, Klima invokes the spirit
of the city that has shaped and sustained him: ironical, cultured,
accustomed to adversity but full of hope; a spirit embodied
by his heroes, Kafka, Hasek and Havel; and one which informs
Klima's own unique perspective in fifty years of writing.
Spirit of Prague and Other Essays at
for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, Ivan Klima. Granta
Books, London. (1994)
Klima was in the United States when Russian tanks entered
Prague in 1968, but, against the advice of friends and colleagues,
he returned home. He became a dissident, writing books (never
officially 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 indirectly
informs Klima's powerful new novel-his most important and
far-reaching fiction to date.
for the Dark, Waiting for the Light describes life before,
during and after the cataclysm of 1989, the so-called Velvet
Revolution. 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-the authorities will never allow. But after the
collapse of communism, Pavel finds he is unprepared for this
new world of supposedly unlimited freedoms. He never quite
gets round to making that searing portrait of his times; his
time, his day, is taken up instead with lucrative small jobs-a
TV spot, a commercial, a porn film
darkly humorous novel is the first work by a former dissident
to emerge from Eastern Europe since the revolutions of 1989.
for the Dark, Waiting for the Light at
Golden Trades, Ivan Klima, Granta Books/Penguin UK. (1992)
Shortlisted for The Independent Translation Prize 1993.
Klima had never imagined that he would become a smuggler.
True, there was the example of his father (an academic) who,
during the war, had once brought home a roll of banknotes.
It was to be secreted in their single room in the Jewish ghetto,
and kept from the Nazis at all costs. And there was the historical
example of Jink Vostry, a Protestant missionary who had smuggled
books into Bohemia two and a half centuries earlier. (Klima
had read the transcripts of his interrogation) However, though
these experiences haunted him, they seemed of limited use
when he was being pursued through the streets of Prague, three
bags of 'banned' books hidden under a basket of laundry in
the back of his car.
then he had also never imagined that he would be an archaeologist.
Or a courier. Or a surveyor's assistant. Or a train driver
(though it had been his childhood fantasy). Nevertheless,
when in the 1980s he was prevented from publishing his books
by the Czech communist government, these were the jobs he
found himself having to do.
used the jobs-his new golden trades'-to gain access to the
secret life of his country (including its toxic forests and
its Semtex factory) in the decade that culminated in the Velvet
Revolution. And in this-the most personal of Klima's books-they
became occasions for the trade he does best: story-telling.
Golden Trades at Amazon.com