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Comment: exlibrary hardcover book in jacket with light wear, shows some light reader wear throughout ,all the usual library marks and stamps.
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My Crazy Century: A Memoir Hardcover – October 22, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 534 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802121705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802121707
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed dissident Czech playwright and novelist Klíma (Love and Garbage) surveys several varieties of political insanity in this absorbing memoir. His life began in deranged horror as his Jewish family barely survived internment in the model Nazi concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezín; after the war, he grew disillusioned with the irrationality of the new Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, especially when his father, an ardent Communist, was arrested on trumped-up accusations of sabotage. Most of his narrative takes place during Czechoslovakia's post-Stalinist weary dictatorship. Klíma, then a prominent editor, wrestled with censors and adapted to the idiocies of official literary ideology. After the Prague Spring in 1968, his books were banned and his life became a labyrinth of police harassment and cat-and-mouse games with government interrogators who barely pretended to believe their own prosecutorial gambits, while a seemingly futile samizdat movement simmered underground. The author relates all this with a mordant humor and a limpid prose that registers both the overt fear that repression engenders and the subtler moral corruptions it works in victims and perpetrators. He finishes with a series of penetrating essays on the underpinnings of totalitarianism, from its utopian fantasies to its sordid practical compromises. Klíma's searching exploration of a warped era is rich in irony—and dogged hope. (Nov.)

From Booklist

Klíma was seven in 1941, when his family was taken with other Jews living in Prague to the Terezin concentration camp. Because of happenstance and possibly because his father was an electrician and particularly useful, the family survived, only to fall under the tyranny of communism. He found some pleasure in writing essays in an impromptu school in the camps and later drifted into journalism, learning the severe limitations of truth telling as he adjusted to the expectation of glorious reports of progress. Klíma traces his personal journey through belief in communism that he shared with his generation, an appeal having more to do with the search for high ideals than the actual ideology, and a growing disillusionment after his father’s arrest and trial. All through the postwar spread of communism, the liberation of the Prague Spring, the Soviet invasion, and the eventual collapse of the Communist regime, Klíma grew as a writer and a human being, joining other writers in the revolt against oppression. A sweeping, revealing look at one man’s personal struggle as writer and individual, set against the backdrop of political turmoil. --Vanessa Bush

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Vera on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a native of Czechoslovakia, who is a survivor of both the holocaust and the totalitarian regime in that country, I found Mr. Klima's memoir similar in many ways to my own life story (minus the membership in the Communist Party), and very believable. I emigrated to the US in 1968, following the Warsaw Pact invasion, so the events from that point on I'm familiar with mainly fthrough the experiences of my family members living there, and my personal impressions from several visits back during the last years of the communist regime before the "velvet revolution" of 1989.
Because of the above circumstances, Mr. Klima's book held few surprises for me. However, I enjoyed reading the book, learning about Mr. Klima's personal history, and going down the memory lane. I'd recommend the book to anybody who is interested in the a history of the former country of Czechoslovakia from WWII onward, and/or the political system that shaped, and for many destroyed, the lives of its citizens.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Roberta Gordon on December 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived through 18 years of Communist oppression in Prague. Jiri Klima writes about it with controlled passion, but his sufferring smolders underneath his words. Reading his account of house searches gives me the shivers and his eloquent expression of personal violation brings it all back. His memoir is a tribute to all those writers behind the Iron Curtain who were the ultimate heroes of the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution.
I highly recommend his memoir to all those writers living in democracy with the ability to express themselves freely and whose voice can be heard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Klíma emphasizes moral dilemmas in sparer, simpler prose, shorn of the philosophical digressions characteristic of his colleague Milan Kundera; as his autobiography demonstrates, Klíma avoids cant or cliché. This is a big book, so details follow, which even summed up take some space to show you its contents and range.

Klíma opts for sincerity, and he resists conformity, at considerable cost to his career. How he got there brings us back to his ill-timed birth in 1931; this made him, and his family of Jewish descent, a deportee to Terezín. Klíma tells his family's survival within this predicament without melodrama or sentiment. Ivan's unfamiliarity with Judaism, given his family's Communist ties and his assimilated upbringing, come across in well-crafted vignettes, and where a lesser talent might have inflated the pathos or irony in the Nazi invention, Klíma exerts emotional control.

This typifies My Crazy Century. "It's a strange world when you are called upon to explain why you weren't murdered as a child." His admission of "having drawn one of the few lucky numbers" in this abominable lottery" of who shall live and who shall die raises uncertainty about why he let alone most of his family survived. given he was no longer considered underage before the end of the war and so as a male inmate he was exposed to the same fate meted out to millions of his neighbors. After liberation, however, his family's status (it appears thanks to two of his mother's Communist brothers who had been executed by the enemy during the war) seems to have risen, if for a while, after the 1948 takeover by the Party.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laika on December 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr Klima is a lively , witty but also a pragmatic and honest storyteller.
His writing is easily digested , and I look forward to entering his world every evening.
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By MacroV on February 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I had never heard of Ivan Klima until I heard him on an NPR interview recently when he was in Washington plugging the book. The interview was fascinating and because I'm soon headed to a job in Prague, I felt I should check it out.

I am well familiar with the evils and absurdities of communism, so I didn't find much that was surprising in Klima's memoir. Nonetheless he is a compelling storyteller and caused me to wonder repeatedly if the world he was describing in communist Czechoslovakia - and the whole paradigm of creating a "new socialist man" - wasn't some big joke. Unfortunately not, for those who lived under it.

I give it four stars only because I felt that even at nearly 500 pages, the book seems a little short - perhaps too much lost in the abridgment from the much-longer Czech edition. If you can read Czech, I would suggest getting that one on your next visit to Prague.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read a few things about the Czech runner Emil Zatopek, and have been disappointed that I never learned about how he dealt with the Communist regime (from 1948-1989). Zatopek flourished as runner in the late-40's to early-50's, sympathized with the Prague Spring, and was internally exiled until 1989. This memoir by Klima has a lot to say about how he managed under communism. Not that it was necessarily like the way Zatopek managed, but there were probably similarities. Klima had a great desire to stay in his homeland, so despite having opportunities to leave, he remained. In fact he was teaching in the US in 1968-69, and still chose to return after the crackdown. He did belong to the communist party for a time in the 1950's, mostly naively. But mostly he managed to live in a kind of grey zone that allowed him to write but not collaborate. It wasn't until the last years of the communist regime that he became pretty strongly identified with the dissidents.
Apparently Klima wrote a 2-volume memoir, of which this is an abridged 1-volume version. The publishers suggest they might publish the 2 volumes (in translation) at some point, but don't promise. I don't know what more there is, but the book under review ends in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution. It would be interesting to hear about his life since then. Though everyone is in favor of freedom, it has its downsides. E.g., writers under oppression have deep issues to write about. Freedom eliminates some of those issues, and can present a challenge to creativity. Also, we have a friend who is roughly my age who grew up in CZ and was in her 30's in 1989. She confessed to Kathy and me once that she had not been prepared to make life choices for herself, and found freedom rather difficult.
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