Philip Horne writes:

Klima’s fine, disconsolate novel is scarcely the cliché its blurb makes it out – ‘a moving account of the fate of the dissident artist under an oppressive regime’ – because Klima’s reason for joining a team of Prague street-sweepers is not exactly that he has been forced to do it by the state. ‘I needed to go somewhere in the morning, at least I’d now have a natural objective for a while: set out somewhere, perform whatever kind of activity and listen to whatever kind of talk, just so I don’t have to sit amidst the silence listening to the snapping of threads.’ Dissidence plays a fairly small part in Klima’s preoccupations, which are more existential, both more private and more universal.

(LRB 10 May 1990)

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