cover image The Spirit of Prague: And Other Essays

The Spirit of Prague: And Other Essays

Ivan Klima. Granta (NY), $12.95 (188pp) ISBN 978-0-9645611-2-0

This collection of critical pieces by the acclaimed Czech author of Waiting for the Darkness, Waiting for the Light offers a fine introduction to Klima's life, intellectual development and literary and cultural preoccupations. It includes essays on the author's boyhood, partly spent in the Nazi concentration camp Terezin; on his beginnings as a writer; and an interview with Philip Roth in which Klima expresses his views on Vaclav Havel and Milan Kundera, among other people and topics. There is also an essay on the creation of Prague's samizdat press and some rather cranky feuilletons, short pieces written for same. But the longer the essays, the more powerful. Klima's description of the genesis of organized opposition to the Czech Communist government after 1968 and his long closing work, delineating the role that certain painful personal experiences played in Kafka's writing, especially of The Castle and In the Penal Colony, are particularly important. While exposing readers to Klima, this well-constructed collection will also help acquaint them with contemporary Czech letters, and with the circumstances surrounding the non-violent ``velvet'' revolution of 1989, one of recent history's most inspired episodes of intellectual activism and courage. (Sept.)