A nimble translation ably conveys the simple beauty of Kliment's complex novel, published in Czech in 1977, which ponders the impact of politics on human emotions in a country under Communist rule. The time is 1967 in the city of Prague, its crumbling ancient churches and clock towers standing side by side with reminders of Soviet oppression and postwar gloom. Mikulás Svoboda, a 40-year-old architect, is living his life as an observer, seemingly calm, but on the verge of losing control. Mikulás designs buildings that conform to government strictures, in spite of his desire to strike out on his own. He is forever dreaming about preserving the beauty of his beloved countryside, and through his eyes we view the grand history of Prague in its monuments and buildings. Mikulás must confront the reality of his future and that of his country when Olga, a widowed painter and longtime love interest who has decided to move to Paris, asks him to join her. For Mikulás, reality is anchored in his connection to his friends, and in particular the women in his life: Jarmila, translator and ex-wife; Miládka, lover and "luggagette" at the Central Railroad Station; and Olga. Responsibility and loyalty are weighed against freedom and self-determination in this finely wrought novel, and the powerful pull of home and beauty—in all sorts of forms—is affirmed. (Feb.)
Forecast:Wechsler, the publisher of Catbird Press, chose to translate this novel himself; Ivan Klíma wrote an unsolicited foreword. Kliment is yet another of the many excellent writers to come out of Communist Czechoslovakia and Living Parallel fills a gap in the annals of dissident literature.
Release date: 02/01/2002