Ian Sansom at The Guardian:
Kafka's The Trial; Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk; Kundera's The Joke; Bohumil Hrabal's Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age; Josef Škvorecký's Lieutenant Boruvka novels: one might be forgiven for thinking that all Czech literature is somehow synonymous with absurdism, dark humour and the erotic sublime. But this is too simplistic. Do Austen, Dickens and Larkin represent Eng lit? “I don't like it when people make generalisations about nations or ethnicities,” writes the novelist Ivan Klíma in his new memoir, which covers his life from early childhood in Prague to the Velvet Revolution in 1989, “claiming that Germans are disciplined, Czechs have a sense of humour, the English are tight-laced, the Russians are drunkards, Jews are businessmen and Gypsies are thieves”. Just as there is more to English literature than marriage plots, social panoramas and patiently lowered horizons, there is more to Czech literature than long jokes and the aesthetics of the forlorn. There is, for example, the work of Klíma.
With his once-fashionable shaggy Beatles haircut and his ever-serious and scholarly mien, Klíma looks well meaning and yet utterly out of touch – like a university professor. Yet Philip Roth once described Klíma as “my principal reality instructor”.