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The Ultimate Intimacy Paperback – 11 Nov 1997

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Paperback, 11 Nov 1997
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; 1st ed. edition (11 Nov. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862070695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862070691
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,099,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

It's easy to tease out the serious themes in Ivan Klima's novel of ideas--religious belief vs earthly love; freedom vs responsibility; scepticism 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
I tend to want to identify and sypathise with the protagonist or hero of a book. And I did try really hard to like Daniel Vedra. But by the end I was very irritated by his weak will rather than impressed by the strength of his love for Bara. And poor Hana. What a nice family he had. Do we seek to destroy things when they get too good? And Bara killed me: whingeing, depressed and leading Daniel further and further into a web which tied his conscience into agonising knots. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, my disappointment with Daniel, I found this book immensely enjoyable. I never really considered myself hung up on fidelity but this book made me realise that only really with fidelity comes intimacy and true beauty, and more importantly, the clear conscience to enjoy it.
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Format: Paperback
This book is worth reading - as are all of Ivan Klima's books. It is sometimes heavy-going but is worth the perserverance. You feel that you know the character Daniel so well by the end - and you are left feeling torn about the inadequacies and choices he has made.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A powerful examination of ideas 4 Dec. 1999
By Dennis Hathaway - Published on
Format: Paperback
Klima deals in big ideas--the nature of love, morality, despair, religious belief--and he does so from a variety of perspectives, turning ideas this way and that, holding them up to different sorts of light so that their complexity can be fully appreciated. Third person narratives are blended with diary entries and letters written by different characters who are all distinct and move about in skillfully detailed settings. The story may be the most artful element of the novel; it is compelling, suspenseful, never predictable or hackneyed. I had a few minor quibbles about passages that seemed to go on too long, but as a whole the novel creates a genuine emotional and intellectual experience so powerful that it lives on long after the final page is reached.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Masterfully narrated tale of vows broken/boundaries crossed 16 May 2000
By LarsLancejr - Published on
Format: Paperback
Where so many texts can only provide a cursory glace at an issue, four major thematic concerns are masterfully probelmatized in this novel. These are love, religion, politics and the family. The focus falls primarily upon a pastor and the ensuing amorous relationship he has with a woman who attends his service one day. What follows is an at time heart-wrneching history of a woman whose abusive huband leads her to feel lonely and incomplete and the relationship she has with the pastor. He (pastor)is married to his second wife, whose only shortcoming is that she will never equal his first wife.
Equal time is spent exploring the Pastor's ministry to a drug user/dealer and his search for his father who was abducted by the secret police years earlier. However, we are always anxiously waiting to to see what is going to happen between the Pastor and his mistress.
Of particular interest is one literary convetion employed by the author. That is, readers are invited to read the Pastor's diary as well the written correspondance between him and his lover as well as those between him and friends and family. These draw the reader into the inner thoughs of the protagonists, asisting the narrative voice in its duties.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
surprisingly readable for its subject 9 Nov. 2001
By Emilia Palaveeva - Published on
Format: Paperback
THis was the first book by Ivan Klima that I read and based on the back cover description I picked it with a little doubt--will it be one of those haughty books that try to explain the meaning of life, love and faith in a language that nobody can understand or care to. But it was not.
The novel is about a married pastor who falls in love with a married woman. Tormented by the deception he lives in, contrary to everything he has preached and believed in, he begins to question everything around him--his relationship with his family, his wife, his dead parents.
Through the eyes and words of the pastor, his wife and kids, his lover and her husband and other characters in the book, the reader is forced to think about some major issues: What is love? Are we always looking for an excuse to justify our not always perfect judgements? How do you adjust in a time when moral values in a society change (the novel takes place in the early nineties, when the Czech republic is on its painful way to recovery from communism and rediscovering itself)?
Yet, Klima manages to discuss all these issues and more in a very palpable way, without turning his book into a philosophical treaty. The characters of Dan (the pastor), Hana (his wife), Bara (the lover) and Samuel (the lover's domineering husband) are very well developed and portrayed with all their insecurities, doubts, emotions and loyalties.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A lyrical look at relationships as they wear and tear 22 Nov. 2008
By Stacey M Jones - Published on
Format: Paperback
THE ULTIMATE INTIMACY by Ivan Klíma is about a protestant minister in Prague, his family and his affair with a new parishioner. This book takes on the themes of personal closeness, integrity and honor, the human need for love and understanding and the issues and tests of faith that happen for all believers, even ministers. It's about faith in each other as well, and how trust and betrayal may wilt that belief.

Dan is the minister of a church in Prague; he has come through the years of Communism, when he was banished to the rural areas with his family, which comprises his second wife Hana and their son and daughter, Marek and Magda, as well as Dan's daughter Eva with his late wife, Jitka. Dan also has peripheral members of his family, including Petr, a young man who has been in jail for drugs, etc., whom Dan is trying to help lead an honorable life. Hana is a poorly paid, overworked nurse. Their children are in their teens and sorting through their own beliefs about God, morality and social behavior.

On the day Dan learns his mother has died, a new woman begins to attend his church, Barbara, or Bara. She is a sometime actress turned architect and interior designer who is married to an older, very successful Prague architect. She has two children, one son from each of her marriages, and she is wealthy in her marriage to Samuel; however, she is not happy, as she feels he has come to see her as property -- Samuel cannot bear to be alone, and she feels constrained by him and unloved. She comes to the minister of the church seeking something, and their relationship grows as she asks him about faith, love and belief. Once their affair begins, he is struck by her regular plea, "Do not forsake me."

Klíma tells the story by allowing us to see the main characters through their own eyes as well as through the eyes of other peripheral people in their lives. Chapters are dedicated in turns to various characters as well as to letters and Dan's diary entries. This extracts us from the tunnel vision of a single character who is justifying his or her actions. The reader witnesses the loneliness of all ... Dan, Bara, Samuel, Hana, and Matous, a man whom Hana has cared for who develops feelings for her. We watch as Dan, the main character, struggles with his hopes for those he loves, his daughter Eva, Petr, Bara, and wrestles with his guilt and his faith. Bara struggles with her loss of love for Samuel and her ambivalence about God. She is sure, however, that love is the highest value.

It seems easy to say that Klíma reminds me of Kundera, a fellow Czech author, though Klíma is more grounded. Both, however, focus on a landscape of the mind, the reality of the emotional lives of their characters. I was impressed with how Klíma ended this novel -- I was prepared for some neat turn of plot to settle what was becoming increasingly messy and painful for all the characters. I won't say more than this. Dan's relationship with each character is seen through the lens of trying to understand who the person really was in terms of fidelity to others, to the persona he or she has for Dan. A subplot involving Dan's late-father's possible complicity with the secret police brings a political flavor to the book's overall theme, as well.

Klíma asks early on if one can have intimacy without fidelity and fidelity without intimacy. I'll let you read the novel and see what you think. This book was particularly special to me because I bought it in Prague on my recent trip in a bookstore I used to haunt, and I chose it because it is about people in that city and their deepest inner lives. I loved it.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Ultimately Indifferent 7 Nov. 2000
By Alissa Herbert - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ivan Klima is an astonishing man. His writings are usually fabulous. Being a Terezinstadt survivor, a Samizdat writer and distributor, his history is the material of a life larger than fiction. Perhaps that is why I found this book so disappointing. It is a nice, long read, but in the end, I found myself rather unconnected to the characters, and tired of the drum-beating of the intimacy concept... weary of the book. The resulting effect was, for me as a reader, a great distacing and lack of intimacy with the characters, and the novel itself. This makes the title rather ironic. The novel was very sterile, the characters were unappealing and hard to feel anything for. I don't know if I liked or disliked any of them enough to muster up sufficient passion to say anything powerful about the book, except that I was glad it was over. I should have probably stuck with Klima's earlier works, or the likes of Bohumil Hrabal and Josef Skorecky. Some Czech critics say that older Samizdat writers like Klima can get away with writing anything these days, on the weight of their name/history alone. I think this book is proof of that.
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