Kl°ma (My First Loves, 1988; Love and Garbage, 1991) writes here about Adam Kindl, a Czech judge who lives in a state of perpetual contradiction. Survivor of a concentration camp in his childhood, provincial lawyer, husband to a woman who's fallen for a young and silly student, friend of dissidents for whom he does favors despite his own official position, Adam is a man always pulled between the axes of his own conscience and the humilities of fate. He feels himself forever being set up. In the meantime, his superiors have assigned him to a murder case they fully expect to yield the death penalty--exactly the verdict Adam has made his small career arguing against philosophically. By the same token, his response to his wife's infidelities is to take a mistress himself, the wife of a friend, plunging him into a two-facedness causing almost more entanglement than he can manage. Kl°ma's most authoritative pages are the domestic ones--the jagged demands broken faith makes; he writes well and painfully about desperate attempts to restore love. But the novel is snapless, boggy, gray, and long. Predicament can hold one's interest only so long before drama kicks in--and it almost never does here. Earnest, but slow and unrelieved.