Cover image for Living parallel
Living parallel
Kliment, Alexandr, 1929-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Nuda v Čechách. English
First English-language edition.
Publication Information:
North Haven, CT : Catbird Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
238 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Garrigue book."
Format :


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This novel about conflicts of conscience explores an unusual love triangle of a man, a woman, and the Czech countryside. Mikulas is an architect who has spent his career designing prefab high-rise apartment blocks in Prague, when his dream has been to design garden apartment complexes in the countryside that he loves. Finally winning the heart of an artist named Olga, a woman he first fell in love with 20 years earlier, Mikulas must now make a decision between her and his homeland. Filled with striking images, fresh metaphors, and colorful language, this beautiful, reflective novel examines both the spiritual limitations imposed by communism and a life abandoned and started anew.

Author Notes

Alexandr Klimen t's work was banned in Czechoslovakia for 20 years. This is his first book to appear in English. Robert Wechsler is the author of Performing Without a Stage: The Art of Literary Translation . He lives in North Haven, Connecticut.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Kliment, a contemporary of Kundera, Havel, and Klima, copyrighted this novel in 1977, and it is his first to appear in English. Set in Prague, it is narrated by Mikulas, an architect so restricted by the political and cultural regime that he's given up trying to build anything of personal value. Instead, he lives only for aesthetic experiences: "I am a parallel person. I stand outside events, but I breathe their atmosphere." His constant debate about emigration further splinters his existence: should he leave or stay, unable to realize his work but surrounded by his beloved landscape, which he experiences with near-religious reverence. Mikulas's love affairs--one a marriage; the other a deep, lifelong obsession--form the framework of the novel, but it is the evocative setting and Mikulas' interior dialogues, not the exterior action, that make up most of this beautiful, often experimental novel that asks how love happens, why we work, and what sustains us most. --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

A nimble translation ably conveys the simple beauty of Kliment's complex novel, published in Czech in 1977, which ponders the impact of politics on human emotions in a country under Communist rule. The time is 1967 in the city of Prague, its crumbling ancient churches and clock towers standing side by side with reminders of Soviet oppression and postwar gloom. Mikul s Svoboda, a 40-year-old architect, is living his life as an observer, seemingly calm, but on the verge of losing control. Mikul s designs buildings that conform to government strictures, in spite of his desire to strike out on his own. He is forever dreaming about preserving the beauty of his beloved countryside, and through his eyes we view the grand history of Prague in its monuments and buildings. Mikul s must confront the reality of his future and that of his country when Olga, a widowed painter and longtime love interest who has decided to move to Paris, asks him to join her. For Mikul s, reality is anchored in his connection to his friends, and in particular the women in his life: Jarmila, translator and ex-wife; Mil dka, lover and "luggagette" at the Central Railroad Station; and Olga. Responsibility and loyalty are weighed against freedom and self-determination in this finely wrought novel, and the powerful pull of home and beauty in all sorts of forms is affirmed. (Feb.) Forecast: Wechsler, the publisher of Catbird Press, chose to translate this novel himself; Ivan Kl!ma wrote an unsolicited foreword. Kliment is yet another of the many excellent writers to come out of Communist Czechoslovakia and Living Parallel fills a gap in the annals of dissident literature. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The tiny Czech Republic continues to astound the world with the quality of its literature, and this novel, which introduces English speakers to Kliment, is yet another example. In exquisite prose, Kliment offers an introspective study of an architect forbidden to create in a time and place ruled by Stalinist ideology. Mikul s Svoboda lives a parallel life in which the countryside has become his solace even as he is required to design hideous prefab apartment blocks that may last possibly 20 years. His marriage fails because of his unrequited passion for Olga, remembered from his youth. Then suddenly he is offered the opportunity to leave Czechoslovakia with the recently divorced Olga. In this extended meditation on the nature of exile from one's homeland, Kliment moves fluidly from the present to the past and back again as Mikul s grapples with the tension between his love for Olga and his attachment to the land. Poetically translated by Wechsler and introduced by Ivan Kl!ma, another Czech author who has explored the stifling of artistic ability under communism, this work is essential for any library collecting European fiction. Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib. Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.