Ivan Klima witnessed the horrors of Nazi occupation during the war (he began to write in Terezin concentration camp), the Stalinist regimes of the 1950s, the celebrations of the Prague Spring (Klima was the editor of Czechoslovakia's most important literary magazine), the despair of the Soviet invasion in 1968, the bravery of the members of Charter 77, the triumph of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, and the uncertainty following the formal division of his country.
This collection of essays by one of Europe's most brilliant and humane novelists charts five critical decades in the history of Czechoslovakia. In the title essay, Klima invokes the spirit of the city that has shaped and sustained him: ironical, cultured, accustomed to adversity but full of hope - a spirit embodied by his heroes, Kafka, Hasek and Havel, and one which has informed Klima's own unique perspective over fifty years of writing.
Ivan Klima was born in 1931 in Prague, where he now lives, and was editor of the journal of the Czech Writers' Union during the Prague Spring. He is the author of many plays, stories and novels, including Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, The Ultimate Intimacy and My Golden Trades, and a non-fiction book, The Spirit of Prague, all of which are published by Granta Books. His work, which is now published worldwide, was once banned in his own country. Paul Wilson was born in 1960. He is the author of four previous novels, The Fall from Grace of Harry Angel, Days of Good Hope, Do White Whales Sing at the Edge of the World? and Noah, Noah. He lives in Darwen, Lancashire, and works in the field of learning disability.