The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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Book review: As the writer-garbage collector sees it

Noel Grima Sunday, 17 September 2023, 08:35 Last update: about 11 months ago

Love and garbage

Author: Ivan Klima

Publisher: Penguin Books / 1991

Pages: 222


The Czech author and playwright Ivan Klima, who turned 92 this week, was banned as a dissident writer under the Communist regime. He had to wait 19 years for his works to appear in public in his own country.

He has written over 20 novels and essay collections, in addition to several plays. His best known books include My Merry Mornings and the book being reviewed today.

He was born in Prague and during World War II spent three-and-a-half years in the Terezin concentration camp. Since his father was responsible for all electrical management in the camp, he was spared from transport to any of the extermination camps.

In 1953 he joined the Communist Party but he was expelled after an open public criticism at the Fourth Writers' Congress in 1967. He then returned to the Party at the end of the 1960s before being expelled for good in 1970. In the following era, until the fall of the socialist regime, he was only able to publish abroad or in samizdat to which emergence and existence he contributed significantly.

The narrator of this novel temporarily abandons his work-in-progress - an essay on Kafka - and exchanges 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 extra-conjugal love affair with the sculptress Daria.

Gradually he admits the impossibility of being at the same time an honest writer and an honest lover. With this agonising discovery comes a moment of choice.

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