cover image My Golden Trades: Stories

My Golden Trades: Stories

Ivan Klima. Scribner Book Company, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19727-2

The title of this collection of short stories, set in the mid-1980s in the author's native Czechoslovakia, is taken from an old Czech proverb: For him with nine trades the 10th is poverty. Klima, a well-known dissident who was forced to take a series of blue-collar and menial jobs to support himself, is of course ironically referring to his own position as an outcast in Czech society. As is clear from this collection, whatever Klima suffered was more than compensated for by his access to people he would never otherwise have come in contact with. Written in the compassionate, musing style that marked Love and Garbage, the six stories about the ``trades'' Klima briefly took up-he notes that ``the book is autobiographical to the extent that I actually did most of the jobs mentioned in the stories''-include a lively variety of character sketches: the rich businessman who smuggles forbidden Western literature into Czechoslovakia for a thrill; an idealistic, romantic young archeologist at a Celtic burial site; and a hard-working young surveyor who introduces the narrator to the horrific, ecological degradation of the Czech countryside. Subtly interwoven into these stories are moral issues the Czechs still continue to face: the inability of Vietnamese immigrants to assimilate and the extermination of Jews by the Nazis on Czech soil during WWII, for example. This is an excellent addition to other works by the author now available in English. (Oct.)