TEHRAN – Czech novelist Ivan Klima’s 1986 book “Judge on Trial” has been published in Persian.
Saless is the publisher of the book rendered into Persian by Forugh Puryavari, who previously translated Klima’s “My Crazy Century: A Memoir”.
She is also the translator of Kiran Desai’s “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard”, Tadeusz Konwicki’s “A Minor Apocalypse” and several other books.
First published underground in Czechoslovakia in 1978, this semi-autobiographical novel was reworked by Klima (“Love and Garbage”) in 1986 to include significant incidents from his own past.
These key additions – brutally honest, emotional and reflective – have turned a political novel into a major opus.
Like the author, the narrator is a Nazi concentration camp survivor and an intellectual who rethought his initial support of socialism after the show trials of the ‘50s and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
As the novel opens in the early ‘70s, respected judge Adam Kindl reluctantly prepares to hear a case involving a senseless murder – but it is a setup.
Kindl, opposed to capital punishment, is expected to deliver a death sentence; if he does not, he will be forced to leave his position.
A series of flashbacks – to a horrific childhood, concentration camp scenes, the political imprisonment of his father, his struggle with socialism – contrasts with an increasingly chaotic present, in which the loss of friends and a disintegrating marriage are elements.
The thorny judicial problem faced by Kindl serves as apt metaphor for the conflicting demands of conscience and pragmatism during the years of communist domination in Eastern Europe.
Klima’s early childhood in Prague was happy and uneventful, but this all changed with the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, after the Munich Agreement.
He had been unaware that both his parents had Jewish ancestry; neither were observant Jews, but this was immaterial to the Germans.
In November 1941, first his father Vilem Klima, and then in December, he and his mother and brother were ordered to leave for the concentration camp at Theresienstadt (Terezin), where he was to remain until liberation by the Russian Liberation Army in May, 1945.
Both he and his parents survived incarceration, a miracle at that time.
Photo: Front cover of the Persian translation of Ivan Klima book “Judge on Trial”.