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My First Loves (1985)

by Ivan Klima

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1002202,419 (3.78)4
"The voice [in these stories] is clear and intelligent and brave. Mr. Klima has climbed the mast." New York Times



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Czech (1)  English (1)  All languages (2)
This is the fourth of Klíma's books that I've read and it maintains the standard of work I encountered in the others. It comprises four tales, the second and third of which are effectively novellas. As ever, in this translation, at least, they're beautifully told.

Klíma has personal experience of some of the most extreme events in recent European history and this alone lends his work heft. The first of the tales concerns first love in a Jewish ghetto where the inhabitants are awaiting transportation. Needless to say, it's a moving piece. The second tale, featuring a teenage boy's obsession with a married woman in her twenties is droll but the slightest of the pieces, reminding me of Stefan Zweig...

It is in the third and fourth tales that Klíma hits his stride, for this reader, anyway. 'The Truth Game' is something of a trial run for the novel, 'A Summer Affair', but hugely enjoyable, nonetheless, in its portrayal of romantic cynicism and political intrigue in communist Czechoslovakia. In 'The Tightrope Walkers' the narrator toys with the affections of his best friend's girlfriend who has fallen hopelessly in love with him. It illuminates a previously unseen corner in the old trope of the love triangle.

Highly recommended.

( )
1 vote PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
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"The voice [in these stories] is clear and intelligent and brave. Mr. Klima has climbed the mast." New York Times

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W.W. Norton

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