In the second volume of Ivan Klíma’s memoirs we are transposed into the “sweltering summer”of 1967. The first part Moje šílené století (My Crazy Century), was voted the most interesting book of 2009 in a Lidové noviny poll (as well as having received the 2010 Magnesia Litera Award in the non-fiction category).
The reader rightly anticipates that the author’s existence, as well as the existence of the whole country, will soon find itself amid political turbulence.
As in the first volume of his memoirs, Klíma engagingly portrays the complex path of his own thinking and his and his family’s fate without omitting crucial events as well as their worldwide depiction: the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops, which happened while he was staying in Britain; the first few months following the invasion and the slim chances for resuming the propensities of Prague Spring amid the presence of the Soviet army.
Before the country was once again disconnected from Western culture by the Iron Curtain, Klíma had been invited to move to the States with his family. His Czech roots and the attachment to his native language brought him back though. Subsequently, he and his fellow countrymen ended up spending the next twenty years living in an era that was – rather bizarrely – dubbed “normalization”, even though hardly anything was normal during the period between 1969 and 1989.
On the other hand, people’s minds were placed in a state of schizophrenia, a dichotomy between the private and the public realm, and those who tried to oppose were often prevented from doing their jobs. Pathological atmosphere in the society pervaded into people’s private lives, impairing family and intimate relationships and crushing personalities.
It’s difficult yet indispensable to admit to this. Spurred on by the initiative of the courageous around Charter 77, the time came for other activities and decisions… The memoirs are once again intercut with essays in which Klíma generalizes the basic features of the “crazy century”.