Thursday, August 11, 2016

Love and Garbage [1986]

Czech author Ivan Klima’s life provides for a striking summation of the turbulent times he lived in – persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany, deportation to the Terezin concentration camp during WWII, the brief window of freedom during Prague Spring, suppression of artistic and political voice under the totalitarian regime of Soviet Union 1969 onwards, a throbbing underground movement of dissidence, and ultimately liberation brought forth by the Velvet Revolution. When one reads his intensely semi-autobiographical novel Love and Garbage, one therefore finds all these facets and developments that shaped and defined Klima’s life. No wonder it was banned, as most of his works were, upon publication, and had to rely on samizdat until 1989 for it to come into print; interestingly, it ended up selling over 100,000 copies. This deeply melancholic, exquisitely layered and hauntingly beautiful book was filled with meditations on themes and topics as diverse as life, extra-marital love, fidelity, scarring memories, inevitability of death, loneliness, the disorienting world of Kafka, indestructibility of garbage, and above all the incessant desire for political and personal freedom, and was chronicled through a mix of deadpan cynicism, bitter irony and brooding reflections, with the narrative constantly switching between the past and the present. The novel’s nameless narrator – clearly the author himself – is a banned writer who has taken up the job of a sweeper on the streets of Prague along with a motley group of eccentric colleagues, including an ageing man obsessed with irrelevant inventions and a young man whose failing health put an end to a promising career in jazz music. Meanwhile, as he’s torn apart between his staid marriage to a psychotherapist and tumultuous affair with a sculptress, he must also reconcile to the mortality of his ailing father, come to terms with an Orwellian world of “jerkish” literature, and make sense of the bleak and brutal world in which he exists through his recurrent musings on The Trial, in particular, and Kafka’s life and works, in general.

Author: Ivan Klima
Genre: Semi-Autobiographical Novel/Philosophical Fiction/Black Comedy/Existentialist Drama/Political Drama/Romance
Language: Czech
Country: Czech Republic (erstwhile Czechoslovakia)