A New York Times Notable Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light is the story of Pavel, once a promising, award-winning documentary filmmaker, forced to survive under communism by working as a cameraman for the state-run television station. Now middle-aged, he dreams of one day making a film a searing portrait of his times that the authorities would never allow. When the communist regime collapses, Pavel is unprepared for the new world of supposedly unlimited freedom, unable to make the film he has always wanted to make. Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light is a powerful, important novel about the struggle between the ideal and the temptations of freedom.
This dark and powerful novel by Czech writer and former dissident Klima (Love and Garbage) follows the life of Pavel Fukova, a cynical cameraman for state-controlled TV in Czechoslovakia circa 1989. Pavel and his cineast buddy, Peter, attempted to flee the country 21 years ago. Since then, Pavel has sacrificed his dreams one by one on the altar of expediency. He thinks up screenplays for movies that will never be made and fantasizes about Alice, the lost love of his life. Every aspect of his life, in fact, is permeated by a moral grubbiness; to wit, he has a longstanding relationship with a woman whose former husband lives one thin wall away. Even the upheaval that unseats the president does nothing to relieve Pavel's lot, because he understands that neither the new powerbrokers nor he himself can forgive his cooperation with the previous regime. Lurking behind Pavel's sad story is Peter, who, after their failed escape attempt, gave up the possibility of a career in film and, in the process, won over Alice. Much of the plot is needlessly elliptical, but Klima's fine prose is as unsettling as his purpose. (The handful of scenes in an acrid explosives factory are so gloomy, they could have been written by Conrad.) Klima may, indeed, be reflecting the Velvet Revolution's darkening heart.