Kliment, a member of the Prague Spring literary generation (Vaclav Havel, Josef Škvorecký, Milan Kundera, et al.), is...


Memory and meditation dominate this alternately static and absorbing 1977 tale, the first of this Czech author’s four novels to appear in English.

The story is presented as the first-person narrative of Mikulas Svoboda, an architect who upon turning 40, in 1967, looks back over his earlier life, loves, and submissive “accommodation” to a communist regime that stifled his lifelong desire to create living spaces “in harmony with . . . the landscape I had a personal connection to.” Instead, he has obeyed orders to “Build quickly, build cheaply,” and thus avoid the fates suffered by his brother Beda (accused of “sabotage” and gently decaying in a lunatic asylum), and by several other friends and colleagues who enter the novel only as quickly sketched memories. These latter include Stepan, a cautious Catholic priest; Mikulas’s pragmatic supervisor Dr. Rychta; and a former mentor Kormund, the unlucky perpetrator of a botched fake assassination attempt on a politician who “needed to show that people were threatening him.” Mikulas’s decision to “live parallel” (i.e., alongside, but detached from, the reality destroying his country’s landscape and its spirit) sets him at odds with almost everyone he encounters, and crystallizes in his tangled relations with three women: his former wife Jarmila, a petite, strong-minded literary translator; his sometime mistress Miladka, a “luggagette” whom he meets at a railroad station; and the love of his life Olga, a widowed painter whose imminent departure from Prague to live in Paris is the stimulus for Mikulas’s lengthy vacillations between her claims on him and those that his country and culture continue to exert. The resulting structure of episodic, nonsequential thematic clusters with virtually no narrative tension offers, at its best, echoes of Boris Pasternak’s ineffably meditative “novels”; at its worst, frequent tedium.

Kliment, a member of the Prague Spring literary generation (Vaclav Havel, Josef Škvorecký, Milan Kundera, et al.), is clearly a gifted, thoughtful writer, but Living Parallel isn’t much of a novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-945774-51-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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