Klima wrote this sensuously romantic novel on the timeless theme of the clandestine love affair in response to the misogyny and cynicism he perceived in his countryman Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
The narrator – a banned Czech writer, sweeps the Prague streets with a group of the society’s other outcasts-an old sailor given to drink, a sickly teenager, a foul-mouthed former beauty, a failed inventor, and an ex-pilot. As they go about their mindless job, the narrator learns of the dreams and sorrows of his coworkers and meditates on the life and work of Franz Kafka, the power of literature, and his relationship with his dying father. He agonizes over his passionate, tempestuous love affair with a talented sculptor, Daria, but in the end chooses his wife of many years for whom he feels great tenderness. A meditation on death, the nature of love and freedom, commitment and guilt, this poetic and gently sad autobiographical novel by a major Czech writer belongs in all libraries collecting modern European literature.
For readers willing to be moved more by insight than titillation, this is a fine place to begin your introduction to Klima’s world.