The Ultimate Intimacy

Ivan Klima, Author, a. g. brain, Translator, A. G. Brain, Translator Grove/Atlantic $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1625-3
Daniel Vedra is a man of God. How can he be an adulterer? That's the question that obsesses Daniel and his creator, Czech novelist Klima (Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light), in this brooding novel. Known for fiction that captures the tenor of life in Czechoslovakia during and just after Communist rule, Klima relegates politics to the background, where it haunts the characters' lives from a (largely unexplored) distance. The setting is Prague five years after the fall of Communism. A mild-tempered Protestant minister, husband and father of three, Daniel falls in love with a woman who has begun to attend his services. The effusive Bara reminds him of his beloved first wife, who died young--and she clearly wants him. When their romantic trysts thrust Daniel into a double life, his guilt over betraying his family never rivals his pain over betraying God. When he journeys into the shadowy recesses of his religious convictions, he unveils an even bigger deception: he has been a hypocrite on a much bigger scale than he knew. Daniel's dilemma is engaging, but Klima fails to bring its erotic side to life: the lovers describe their emotions in worn-out platitudes. Furthermore, Daniel's constant self-flagellation--in diary entries, letters to his mistress and in his thoughts--fails to pull its own narrative weight. Still, the novel succeeds in creating a gallery of minor characters whose metaphysical struggles echo Daniel's, and in conveying the anguish of a man who finds that his trusted moral compass no longer guides him. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-86207-115-5
Paperback - 387 pages - 978-0-8021-3601-5
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