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Selected Translations of Ivan Klima
by Paul Wilson

Click on a title below to view covers, summaries and full bibliographical information:

The Spirit of Prague, Ivan Klima. Granta Books, London. (1994)
The Spirit of PragueIvan 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.

This 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.

The Spirit of Prague and Other Essays at


Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, Ivan Klima. Granta Books, London. (1994)

Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the LightIvan 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.

Waiting 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…

This darkly humorous novel is the first work by a former dissident to emerge from Eastern Europe since the revolutions of 1989.

Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light at


My Golden Trades, Ivan Klima, Granta Books/Penguin UK. (1992) Shortlisted for The Independent Translation Prize 1993.

My Golden TradesIvan 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.

But then he had also never imagined that he would be an My Golden Tradesarchaeologist. 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.

He 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.

My Golden Trades at




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