The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch

WEDNESDAY

Czech literature is the gift that keeps on giving. Read past the erotic politics of Milan Kundera (where most Americans start) and you'll find novelist Ivan Klima and the very best of the modern Czech writers: Bohumil Hrabal. Then throw in the poems of Nobel laureate Jaroslav Seifert and Miroslav Holub, the essays of Karel Capek, the plays of Czech president Vaclav Havel, and Jaroslav Hasek's WWI classic The Good Soldier Svejk. That's impressive stuff, and we haven't even gotten to newer works such as Jachym Topol's City Sister Silver. Yet my Czech friends have argued persistently that you can't understand their country's modern literature without reading philosopher and echt bohemian Ladislav Klima (pictured), who, until now, had never been printed in English. That's been remedied via Twisted Spoon Press' new translation of Klima's 1928 philoso-goth novella, The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch. Klima's tale reads like a book that Edgar Allen Poe might have written if he'd read Nietzsche, but there are also moments of reverie that are pure Czech. What I noticed most in reading Sternenhoch, however, was that Klima's rambunctious mix of high and low style and holy and profane content has been stamped indelibly on the Czech literary tradition. You can sample some of Klima's work at a special reading in celebration of Sternenhoch's U.S. release at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Richard Byrne)

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