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Lovers
for a Day

 
 

The Spirit of Prague

   

 

This small circle contains my whole life,” [Kafka] told Thieberger. Prague had become both cage and refuge, a place that protected him from the natural world, but also a place that the writer changed in his dreams.

 

Kafka, Mozart, defenestration.  The elusive magic of Prague.  Ivan Klima, in his essay The Spirit of Prague says that to him the Charles Bridge is the "material and spiritual center of the city...emblem of the city’s situation in Europe, the two halves of which have been seeking each other out...since the bridge’s foundations have been laid. The West and the East.”  As a child Klima was interned along with other Jews in the Terezin concentration camp; years later, the communist regime banned him as a dissident writer.  In Terezin, reading occupied the young Klima’s time.  He read Homer, and titles that speak of the limited libraries of incarceration: Dicken’s The Pickwick Papers and Jules Verne’s The Children of Captain Grant.  When he was released, after the war, Klima says he discovered “the beauty and the delight of reading” and the even more intense pleasure of writing.

 

 The Charles Bridge at night(photo:nikonvscanon)

 

Lovers for a Day, Klima’s collection of short stories, is all about the shadow and light in the interstices of the heart.  12 stories that were written over a span of 30 years, from 1962 to 1994.  The last story in the collection, The White House, is a delicate subtle fable that lingered long after we closed the book.  Jakub, a mathematics student, begins to date Alzbeta a blind musician with hair 'the color of flame', a busker who plays for the tourists in Prague.  Her blindness is alluring, but he knows that the relationship is limited, will end soon.  As if she senses this, she would often tell him softly, on parting, ‘Don’t leave me yet!’  Then he takes her on a last trip, planning to end the relationship soon after, with all the premeditated arrogance of one who has the advantage in love.  They are lost in the woods.  A wild crashing storm, darkness.  Now they are both lost and cannot see.  But here it is Alzbeta who has the advantage, sensing the ‘white house,’ before they come up to it.  And this ‘white house’ is no fairytale castle, but a cemetery.  And then it is Jakub who says, ‘Don’t leave me!’  And so Lovers for a Day ends with a story where you know the lovers will stay together.  And we, on reading the story, could not help but think about the White House, politics somehow creeping in, meditating on how it has been a cemetery to some, and also thinking about the importance of seeing with the heart, and this perhaps our only redemption, whether it is making the right decisions on education (before we throw away our money on the wrong charities and policies, leaving millions of children behind) or on healthcare....

 

Equally compelling are Klima’s essays and feuilleton-style entries in The Spirit of Prague which include remarkable tales of survival in Terezin.

  

 

Read: Lovers for a Day, Ivan Klima

 

Read: The Spirit of Prague, Ivan Klima

 

Tags:  literature travel prague  war

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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