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No Saints or Angels [Paperback]

Ivan Klima
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Oct 2002
Ivan Klima is widely recognized as one of the most important Czech writers of his generation. His new novel, No Saints or Angels, is set in Prague during the summer of 1998 and spans three generations, from the Second World War to the present day. Told with great poise and affection, it attempts to make sense of the new, queasy democracy that followed the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and beautifully captures the shifting realities of contemporary Prague.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (17 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862075360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862075368
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,029,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'One of the leading Czech writers of the Kundera generation... Klima's prose is controlled and rueful. This is a novel of gently delivered wisdoms, played around a very human drama of tenderness and vulnerability' Independent on Sunday 'This hig, clever, generous book is Ivan Klima's best yet' Times Literary Supplement 'He has a quiet, clear style paying forensic attention to the causes of happiness and misery, making him peculiarly absorbing... A highly intelligent novel' Sunday Tribune 'A fascinating read' Independent 'Klima's thoughtful novel ends with delicate cogency, as a tribute to human resilience' Sunday Times

About the Author

Ivan Klima is the author of many plays and novels including The Ultimate Intimacy and Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light. A collection of stories, My Golden Trades, and a non-fiction book, The Spirit of Prague, are also available from Granta Books.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving portrait of a Czech family 11 Jan 2002
Format:Hardcover
No Saints or Angels is a portrait of Kristyna, a Czech dentist, and her relationship with Jana, her daughter, her ex husband, her father and her new lover. This may sound mundane, but the book is emotionally compelling and the story wholly believable. But the story takes second place to the description and development of the relationships between the characters.
Klima is superb at generating sympathy for the characters and has created 'people' who will live on in my memory. I want to know what happens next and how their lives work out - and this is pretty unusual for me. As always with Klima, the evocation of Prague is exquisite.
Klima has written some books that have disappointed before, such as 'Love and Garbage' and 'My Golden Trades', but this - in contrast - is truly excellent and I recommend it highly.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Klima Examines the Cost of Freedom 11 Aug 2004
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Ivan Klima's Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light was set in Prague, in 1989 on the eve of the Velvet Revolution. Rippling through that work was an undercurrent of hope for the future. The promise of freedom was rife and it came coupled with the expectation that life in a free society would be infinitely better than life under an oppressive regime. Fast forward to Prague in 1998. The Czech Republic has been 'free' for almost 10 years. Freedom has no doubt brought great benefits but for the protagonist's of No Saints or Angels freedom may be just another word for nothing left to lose. In Klima's words freedom is the "gateway to an unknown space where even adults get lost in." No Saints or Angels is about three people who seem to have gotten lost.
Krystina is a divorced, middle-aged dentist. Krystina was born in 1953 on the day that Stalin, her devoted Communist father's greatest hero, died. Her father was a strict disciplinarian, callous and cruel to his wife and daughter, and a faithful party apparatchik. Krystina's daughter, Jana, is a 16 year old schoolgirl. Jan is a 30 year old and former student of Krystina's ex-husband. Jan is a government employee tasked with investigation criminal acts of the old regime. Various chapters are narrated in the voice of each of these three protagonists.
As the story opens Krystina is alone, lonely, and has no real focus except her work and the care and feeding of her daughter Jana. Her ex-husband Karel is terminally ill with cancer. She is also more than a bit disconcerted by a series of threatening letters she has been receiving lately. Jana is sixteen and unbeknownst to her mother, she is becoming increasingly involved in the type of teenage behavior often associated with 'democratic' societies: sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Continuity 18 Feb 2002
By taking a rest - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The theme of countries that were brutalized by Germany in World War II only to then face new masters in the form of The Soviet Union has been written before. Ivan Klima adds a new terrible aspect to this history that portrays those that survived as persons suffering from an even more acute pain, if that is possible. The book is unrelenting in the revelations and histories of characters both alive and dead, and while there is some hope in the novel, it is fairly gray, a deep shade of gray.
The author increases the pain his characters must deal with by making them much more than simply survivors. He burdens them with family histories that contributed either to their family's pain, or the pain of their nation. Then there is the complication of the deceptions that one-generation feels is necessary to protect the youngest in the family's line. While well intended and expeditious, invariably it is the wrong decision to make, and the negative consequences it provokes are worse than the original truth. Deception also presupposes that those being mislead are ignorant of the truth, and will remain that way, bad presumption and bad consequences.
The author also presents the consequences of lost continuity. In a macro sense the subject is war, arguably the greatest disruptor of history, and on a micro level there are the relationships, or what pass for relationships, that are either fragments of what they should be, are based on false presumptions, or wrongly credited actions.
There is a wealth of human drama that takes place in this book as the author displays the results of decisions that may be taken by one generation, resented and hated by the next, and still continue to harm the generations that follow.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Human Cost of Freedom 12 Aug 2004
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ivan Klima's Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light was set in Prague, in 1989 on the eve of the Velvet Revolution. Rippling through that work was an undercurrent of hope for the future. The promise of freedom was rife and it came coupled with the expectation that life in a free society would be infinitely better than life under an oppressive regime. Fast forward to Prague in 1998. The Czech Republic has been `free' for almost 10 years. Freedom has no doubt brought great benefits but for the protagonist's of No Saints or Angels freedom may be just another word for nothing left to lose. In Klima's words freedom is the "gateway to an unknown space where even adults get lost in." No Saints or Angels is about three people who seem to have gotten lost.

No Saints or Angels centers on three main characters. Krystina is a divorced, middle-aged dentist. Krystina was born in 1953 on the day that Stalin, her devoted Communist father's greatest hero, died. Her father was a strict disciplinarian, callous to his wife and daughter, and a faithful party apparatchik. Krystina's daughter, Jana, is a 16 year old schoolgirl. Jan is a 30 year old and former student of Krystina's ex-husband. Jan is a government employee tasked with investigation criminal acts of the old regime. Various chapters are narrated in the voice of each of these three protagonists.

As the story opens Krystina is alone, lonely, and has no real focus except her work and the care and feeding of her daughter Jana. Her ex-husband Karel is terminally ill with cancer. She is also more than a bit disconcerted by a series of threatening letters she has been receiving lately. Jana is sixteen and unbeknownst to her mother, she is becoming increasingly involved in the type of teenage behavior often associated with `democratic' societies: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Jan, whose father was persecuted during the old regime, is nervous about political pressures.

Krystina and Jan meet and begin an affair. Jana's drug use becomes apparent even to the remarkably naÔve Krystina. Krystina is tasked with going through her late father's possessions and his correspondence reveals an extraordinary family secret. As the story progresses to its rather calm conclusion each character, in his or her own voice reveal their fears and concerns with their life. Although each is free since 1989 in a socio-political sense they remain a prisoner of their own past, a past that cannot be changed but can merely be contemplated, again and again. Each is burdened with the past and the daily impact that the past has on their present existence. Each character carries within themselves grave uncertainty about their own future and their role in life. On the day Krystina was born her father cried, not because of the joy of his daughter's birth but because of his anguish over the death of Stalin. Klima has him cry out "What are we going to do now?" "How are we going to live?" These are the same questions that Krystina, Jana, and Jan ask themselves in their own way and each a representative of a different generation asks.

It should be pointed out that Klima paints his character portraits with some sympathy. It is clear that he would not trade the problems brought about by freedom for the security of the old regime. In an interview with Radio Prague he took pains to note that the Czech people haves not lost anything from the transition. "Maybe some people, mostly less capable people, have lost their feeling of security: it means entirely apolitical people, who didn't like to work too much, who were not very gifted, they were secure. The prices were stable, and so on and so on. Maybe for some people that's something of a loss. . . . But what we've gained is many things . . . we have gained freedom."

No Saints or Angels is not a perfect work. Sometimes the resolutions of his characters' problems seem a little too simple. Further, Klima's short stories (My Merry Morning for example) and non-fiction pieces (Spirit of Prague) seems to have a more powerful impact on this reader. Nevertheless, Klima is a master at telling a story and No Saints or Angels is no exception. This is a book worth reading either on its own or in conjunction with Klima's other work. I do think that No Saints or Angels would be more appreciated by the reader after he or she has read Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Single Mom in the Czech Republic 2 Dec 2012
By James W. Fonseca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Life is tough. Here is a woman, a divorced dentist, who blames herself for the dissolution of her marriage, even though her ex-husband cheated on her. Now her ex- is dying from cancer and she still feels responsible to go to his flat and care for him. Her father has recently died and she is helping her mother through that crisis. She learns she has a half-brother, the result of her tyrannical fathers' philandering, and this half-brother is sending her threatening letters. As if that is not enough to deal with, her teen-aged daughter is on drugs - at first just a suspicion and then the full-blown lying and stealing and now she's headed for re-hab.

While all this is going on, our heroine has a much younger man interested in her. But she can't let the relationship develop because she can't get past worrying about when he will leave her. She is good at self-sabotage. This passage on her weariness illustrates the tone of this book: "It was as if all the burdens I'd ever borne, all the disappointments I'd suffered, all the wine I'd ever drunk, all the cigarettes I'd ever smoked and all the sleepless nights all fused together."

The book, translated from Czech, holds political themes as well: both her ex-husband and her new lover work in archives supposedly dedicated to uncovering informers in the country's communist past. Her grandmother died in a German concentration camp.

This book is powerful, attention-grabbing and well-written. If you see yourself in this summary, read this book. It's in part a practical manual about dealing with a kid on drugs. There is always hope.
4.0 out of 5 stars Alienation and meaning 8 Dec 2003
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the first, but certainly not the last, book by Ivan Klima I have read. The divorced woman, estranged from father, not understanding her teenage daughter, young lover book blurb lead to very low expectations. Instead I discovered a well-written, thought-provoking book that explores, among other things, the role of religion in providing meaning. While some of this theme relates back to childhood experience of "church" without understanding of the ritual, some relates to using belief as the motivating force in drug rehabilitation and some relates to politics as a substitute for religion. Placed in a world in transition - WWII, Communism and post-communist - the setting permits the plot to explore a variety of views and a variety of ways to adjust to the changes views. If you like thought-provoking novels, this is for you.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Klima is still great 12 Dec 2001
By Angelo Georgakis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In Ivan Kilma's newest piece of fiction, he once again transports us to the magical and alienating world of Prague after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The book is not his best (see Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, or Love and Garbage), however, it is a good introduction to the writing of this master author. His character development is profound, and his ability to narrate is forceful. The reason for four instead of five stars lies in the pessimism that dominates the book. It makes you think, but reminds you how horrible the fact that life often does not turn out as you expected.
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