Cover image for Lovers for a day
Lovers for a day
Klíma, Ivan.
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Short stories. Selections. English
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
229 pages ; 22 cm
Execution of a horse -- The assembly line -- Lingula -- Heaven, Hell, Paradise -- Honeymoon -- Long-distance conversations -- Conjugal conversations -- Uranus in the house of Death -- It's raining out -- A baffling choice -- Rich men tend to be strange -- The white house.
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Ivan Klima has been acclaimed by Booklist as "one of the most important literary voices of Eastern Europe, on a par with Havel, Konrad, and Haraszti." His novels Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light and The Ultimate Intimacy have established him as a writer with a uniquely wry perspective on human affection.

In Lovers for a Day, he delivers a beautiful and masterfully crafted collection of short stories on the theme of love. In "Heaven Hell Paradise, " a doctor who has escaped to London comes back to communist Czechoslovakia to be with his lover and realizes too late that he barely knows her. And in "A Baffling Choice, " a young woman begins an affair with an older man who lives in her apartment building, right under the nose of his wife. The dreams and frustrations of the student cafeteria and the turmoil of political exile in the early 1960s evolve into portraits of people struggling with responsibility, fidelity, and absence, haunted by a terrible guilt when their desires begin to become reality. Klima's unique wisdom creates a personal political history of Prague that is an acute and moving examination of our attempts to

Author Notes

Author and playwright Ivan Klima was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1931.

In 1968, he acted as an editor for the journal of the Czech Writer's Union. Following that, he was briefly a professor at the University of Michigan before returning to his homeland in 1970.

His works, which include The Spirit of Prague, a collection of essays, were banned in Czechoslovakia until 1989. They address issues such as totalitarianism and intellectual freedom, which Klima also lectures on.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Czech writer Klima is simply not read widely enough in the U.S. Born in Prague, he served as editor of the Literary News, the weekly publication of the writers' union. That periodical was closed upon the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, at which time Klima's fiction and drama were banned. That's all over now, of course, and he can freely display his talents at home as well as abroad. As the title of this collection indicates, love is the theme connecting the stories. A variation on that theme is worked out provocatively in "Execution of a Horse," in which a young woman whose relationship recently ended goes for a walk; she then drives off with a man to what turns out to be a mink farm, where she witnesses an old horse being put down, and at the end of the day she ironically understands more about life and love. Klima is a master of the significant detail--telling only that which is essential. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sophisticated readers may expect to admire anything new from the justly revered Czech novelist (Waiting for the Light, Waiting for the Dark). Many of them will be disappointed with these 12 short stories. Klima's tales are sorted into three unequal sections: "Lovers for One Night" collects five stories from the 1960s, while "Intimate Conversations" and "About Love and Death" hold seven from the '80s and '90s. All these dejected fictions concern the success or failure of hopeful myths of intimacyÄbut they are not equally successful. The fiction from the '60s tends to drown in involuted rhetoric; sometimes it's trite, other times it's supercharged with languid enervations and prominent symbolism through which the characters barely appear. It's hard to know whether the translator or Klima is responsible for such clunky prose as "She knew everything. She knew precisely why it was worth living. She knew precisely why it was not worth living." The last few tales (all from 1994) strike clearer, would-be Chekhovian notes. In "Rich Men Tend to Be Strange," a greedy car dealer, dying in a terminal ward, tries to leave a fortune in cash to his nurse. "The White House" is brilliant by any reckoning: a student falls in loveÄor is it love?Äwith a disarmingly honest blind girl, who insists that he's planning to leave her. But other recent stories can be dismayingly predictable and banally sententious. An underappreciated wife, mother and nurse in "A Baffling Choice" becomes enamored of her downstairs neighbor, a 65-year-old invalid, bookbinder and self-taught painter. When he seems about to reject her, she asks, "How could he call into question the very thing that had raised them above what would otherwise be a meaningless existence?" Klima likes to stop and spell out the point he's making, in a manner alien to most modern English-language fiction. Only sometimes do the philosophical rewards of his methods seem worth its costs in detail. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The stories in this collection by prolific Czech writer Klima (e.g., The Judge on Trial, The Ultimate Intimacy) are grouped into three categories: "Lovers for One Night," "Intimate Conversations," and "About Life and Death." With precise prose and an uncanny ability to write conversations between husband and wife or lovers, Klima gives the reader accurate portrayals of life. The overwhelming need for love and the unlikely matches that sometimes occur are deftly explored. In "The White House," young Jakub reluctantly discovers that he has fallen in love with a blind girl. "Rich Men Tend To Be Strange" is a good title for a tale about a dying man planning to leave his life's savings to a kind nurse who is a complete stranger. All of the stories in this collection are excellent. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/99.]ÄLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.