Czech writer and former dissident KlÂ¡ma (My Golden Trades, 1994, etc.) eloquently limns the troubling dilemma of a life set free too late. Like so many of his contemporaries behind the Iron Curtain, talented filmmaker Pavel Fuka, protagonist of this post-revolutionary novel, tried to survive the dark years with his integrity and ambition intact. But, as KlÂ¡ma movingly details, youthful ideals and a sense of one's own creative powers are not enough to withstand a system devised to crush the human spirit. Pavel, who once believed in something, became a man who ""lacked hope, hope that something in life had real meaning."" Moving between the past and the recent present, Pavel describes the long years he spent working for state-run television. There, as his requests to film conditions in an explosives factory or a psychiatric hospital were routinely denied, he filmed, instead, meaningless ceremonies, meetings, and interviews. He also recalls early ambitions of filmmaking and travel; a failed youthful attempt to escape and subsequent imprisonment; two futile love affairs; and his present dissatisfactions. He dreams of making a great film, one with the same title as the novel, but when the revolution comes Pavel is no less unhappy, as he embarks on remunerative but sleazy enterprises with former colleagues. The changes come too late: Pavel cannot make his long-dreamed-of film, because ""there's nothing easier than persuading yourself you could really do something if you tried, as long as you know that they'll never give you the chance. The system never allowed you to win, so it saved you from defeat as well."" A quiet but searing portrait, as powerful as any of KlÂ¡ma's pre-revolutionary novels, of a man and a society irreparably wounded by an oppressive past.