My Crazy CenturyIvan Klíma
3 April 2014
Published by Grove Press
More than a memoir, My Crazy Century explores the ways in which the epoch and its dominating totalitarian ideologies impacted the lives, character, and morality of Klíma’s generation.
Klíma’s story begins in the 1930s, in the Terezin concentration camp outside of Prague, where he was forced to spend almost four years of his childhood. He reveals how the postwar atmosphere supported and encouraged the spread of Communist principles over the next few decades and how an informal movement to change the system developed inside the Party. These political events form the backdrop to Klíma’s personal experiences, with the arrest and trial of his father; the early revolt of young writers against socialist realism; his first literary successes; and his travels to the free part of Europe, which strengthened his awareness of living as part of a colossal lie.
Klíma also captures the brief period of liberation during 1968’s Prague Spring, in which he played an active role; the Soviet invasion that crushed its political reforms; the rise of the dissident movement; and the collapse of the Communist regime in the middle of the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Including insightful essays on topics related to social history, political thinking, love, and freedom, My Crazy Century provides a profoundly rich and moving personal history of national evolution. Ivan Klíma’s first autobiography and perhaps his most significant work, it encapsulates a remarkable life largely lived under occupation.
A harrowing yet often uplifting account of living and working under totalitarian rule
His [Klima's] impassioned memoir is emblematic of Czechoslovakia's struggle - and perhaps the struggle of much of central Europe - during the dark years between the Second World War and the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989.
As a writer, Klima is more reporter than fantasist. He observes and broods and then he writes it down... Klima has never been one for account-settling and acerbity and My Crazy Century is as interesting for its ruminative account of his emotional and personal turmoils as it is for its chronicling of postwar Czech history.
More than a memoir of an extraordinary life, it is an account of an age - and of the destructiveness of successive and symbiotic forms of totalitarianism, and of a critical intelligence that survived them.