Stephen's Reviews > Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light

Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light by Ivan Klíma
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Sep 21, 08


The setting of the Czech writer Ivan Klima's novel is the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989. His hero, Pavel, has adapted ("sold out"?) to the Party after an unsuccessful attempt to flee the country. A filmmaker, he is reduced to making propaganda films. He dreams of producing a film of his failed flight, albeit rather more dramatic and heroic than the actual event, but at the end of the novel, after the revolution takes place, he takes a job making erotic films. Pavel is lost. Is he morally weak? The answer for those who have never lived in systems of oppression might be an easy "yes." But let's be generous . . . and honest: most of us are not heroic, we adapt, and we try to find consolations and excuses in our petty lives for our acts of accommodation. This book does not describe a pleasant reality, but it is a reality, and Klima's description is important for all of us who want to know about adaptation and accommodation under totalitarian regimes. A great passage from this novel captures it all: "There's nothing easier than persuading yourself you could really do something if you tried, as long as you know that they'll never give you the chance. The system never allowed you to win, and so it saved you from defeat as well" (p. 216).
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Szplug "There's nothing easier than persuading yourself you could really do something if you tried, as long as you know that they'll never give you the chance. The system never allowed you to win, and so it saved you from defeat as well"

That was the defining passage for me as well.


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