From Publishers Weekly
In 19 short, interlinked meditations, Klima, the eminent Czech novelist, playwright and essayist, takes a humanist's stroll through our inhumane century and ponders our millennial prospects. A survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, Klima fathoms the lure of "substitute faiths" like communism, fascism and Nazism, which appealed to their adherents' deep hunger for belief and order. Defining existential emptiness as the chief malady of our time, he makes the familiar argument that new forms of escapism-including the mass media culture of sports, movies, TV and pop music and the online world-have partly filled the spiritual vacuum left by the decline of traditional religion and of discredited political creeds. With broad strokes, Klima offers philosophically informed diagnoses of current ills: family and marital breakdown; the worship and quick discarding of the new; drifting, alienated youth; the marginalization of serious art; apathy to environmental destruction and to the misfortune or pain of others. Excoriating Western materialist civilization, which, he says, overemphasizes consumption and productivity while neglecting values such as solidarity, love and community, he finds hopeful signs in ecology movements like the Greens and in women's growing participation at all levels of society. Written for the publisher's Prospects for Tomorrow series, this extended essay is at times morally incisive and fluent, but comes off as hastily written and oddly bland. (Jan.)
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About the Author
Ivan Klima's books and plays have been translated into thirty languages. Concerned with personal and political freedoms, Klima's writing was blacklisted under Communism. He was deeply involved in the triumphant Velvet Revolution of 1989 with other dissident writers such as Vaclav Havel.