It's easy to tease out the serious themes in Ivan Klima's novel of ideas--religious belief vs. earthly love; freedom vs. responsibility; skepticism vs. belief; and the burdens of the Communist past vs. those of the capitalist present. But The Ultimate Intimacy
is far more than a metaphysical point/counterpoint. Klima's exploration of one crucial year in the life of a good minister, who discovers that truth and passion can be all too distant, is no simple construction. Born in 1944 and having grown up in Czechoslovakia in a time "when hate was publicly proclaimed as something necessary," and now living in an era in which "having a good memory tends to be a disadvantage," Daniel Vedra is determined to live according to the Biblical certainties he proclaims. Alas, at a particularly low point following his mother's death he is distracted by a mysterious (and beautiful) churchgoer, and the two are soon entangled. In lesser hands the situation might be incredible or, at best, credible but hackneyed. In Klima's complex narration, however, Daniel's crisis becomes a powerful drama of faith and, perhaps, salvation.
From Library Journal
Czech pastor Daniel Vedra preaches God's limitless love and demonstrates it through ministering to his congregation, community, and family. His staid and predictable life changes when a female visitor who reminds the pastor of his first wife begins attending, though she has little faith in God. She is looking for shelter from her possessive husband and a surrogate lover in Daniel. Though it is against everything he teaches, the couple begins a secret affair; ironically, as it continues, the woman draws closer spiritually while Daniel drifts away, contemplating the validity of Christ's teachings on love and fidelity. This is certainly not the first time the subject of forbidden love in this context has been addressed, but Klima goes deeper than most into the minds of the conspirators as they deceive their families and wrestle with their consciences. The vivid portraits of the families' lives through letters, diary entries, and everyday scenarios rival Updike's best prose, showing that the most important mechanics of love involve the mind much more than the body. Many people will recognize a bit of themselves in this sad but stunning and insightful book. Highly recommended.?Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib, Pa.
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