My First Loves

Ivan Klima, Author HarperCollins Publishers $14.95 (164p) ISBN 978-0-06-015866-8
This elegiac and lyrical coming-of-age quartet of stories on love, obsession and disenchantment follows one protagonist from a WW II boyhood in a Czech ghetto to life as a student and aspiring writer under the Communist regime. Klima (A Ship Named Hope), whose works are banned in his native Czechoslovakia, weds the theme of doomed love to that of perfidious politics. The title character of ""Miriam'' demonstrates devotion to the narrator by offering him a special ration of milk in the ghetto. When she is no longer infatuated, he learns that ``it was better to suffer and be loved than to be joyous without love.'' The lesson applies as well to his cousin, who at the story's close has been deported to a concentration camp with her new husband. In ``My Country'' the atrocities of the recent war are pondered and the glories and hazards of a newfound communism are weighed. The introspective narrator learns that an older woman ``could yearn for me and make love to another and weep for another, yet. . . life was like that.'' Most memorable is ``The Truth Game,'' where the protagonist suffers a double loss of innocence: he discovers both the treacheries of his first lover, a capricious, compulsive but charming liar, and of a despotic, charismatic Czech Communist leader. A singular, digressive voice and keen, sensuous imagery imbue these tales with an intoxicating power. (January)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 168 pages - 978-0-393-30601-9
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