Robin Wilkey
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The Dark Mirror of Desire

An exploration of love and uncertainty that begins in the Second World War, this politically charged and contemporary narrative explores the lives of friends and lovers forced to face their own fears and the hostility of human nature. As the effects of Fascism and National Socialism end and the beginning of Stalinism resound in the former Czechoslovakia, a new ideology is beginning to take control of the country's destiny. Crystallized in the Velvet Revolution, the new generation rises from the dust of dismay only to find that their leaders and the justice system are still in disarray.

'The Law is open to everyone' said Kafka in 'The Trial'. One of the most interesting passages in 'The Dark Mirror of Desire' is how one of the main characters, Daniela understands Kafka's view of destiny and her own. On the one hand she is mistreated and abused by her husband, on the other she attaches herself to the most unbelievably disorganized character one could wish to meet. Leading dishevelled lives and unsure what will happen from one day to the next, this forms just one insight into the lives of those whose stories are recounted here.

Bibliographic Details
ISBN-10: 1897312326 or 1897312458 (softcover)Publisher: Adlibbed Ltd (Canada)
ISBN-13: 978-1897312322 or 978-1897312452 (hardcover)Publication Date: 2 April 2007
Paperback/Hardcover: 420 pages (in English)Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
The life and times of the characters in the story

Although the story begins in Poland, the book covers three main timelines in the history of Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. The first is the Second World War where Jaroslav, originally a correspondent for a newspaper is escaping Danzig by train and trying to get to Warsaw, where he wants to meet his partner Jan. Jaroslav, always one for getting that last picture or story, antagonizes his friend with his careless attitude and disregard for his own life. Needless to say as they leave Warsaw with the borders quickly closing, their dash for freedom is both hair-raising and dangerous.

Somehow making it back to England, Jaroslav meets a pretty ordinance factory worker called Alice during an air raid in London and their relationship blossoms from here. However, Jaroslav is not the character he seems and is a womaniser and a scoundrel, as we are soon to find out. Working for the Intelligence Corps he is sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines, along with his close friend Jan, where he also meets and gets entangled with another pretty woman called Libuse.

Later, during the liberation of Paris in August 1944, he has a brief but significant encounter with a French woman called Claudine. In the next scene we see Claudine arriving in Prague bearing Jaroslav's child, but Jaroslav is nowhere to be found.

We now jump to one of the most well known periods of Czech History. The date is 29 July 1968 and the Warsaw Pact countries are poised on the borders ready to invade, dubbed the Prague Spring, Dubcek and his government race to the Slovak border town of Cierna-nad-Tisou where almost the entire Soviet Politburo arrive in an armoured train as they try and patch up the two country's differences. Meanwhile, Jaroslav and Claudine's son Václav, who was brought up by his Uncle Josef, is about to marry Sabina but they have nowhere to live.

Václav and Sabina have two children from their very happy marriage, Pavel and Magda. The marriage is a stark contrast to the relationships otherwise described in the book, which are stormy to say the least.

The next part of the story centres around five main characters: Daniela, Ivan, Nada, Pavel and Klima.

Daniela is married to Klima, but it is a very unhappy marriage and Klima mistreats and abuses his wife both physically and psychologically. Made to work as a waitress in a cheap bar she meets and falls in love again with her old flame Ivan, who is disorganized and thoughtless, however, a breath of fresh air compared to her violent relationship with her husband.

The past is not far behind and a murder incident that Ivan and Daniela were unintentional witnesses to six years previously rears its ugly head when a suspect is arrested. The narrative, which gives insight into the justice system and politics since the Velvet Revolution, lingers and torments both Daniela and Ivan's every waking hour, especially after she runs away from her dissolute husband. Daniela recalls passages of Kafka's works as she tries to make sense of what is happening around her.

Nada and Pavel are an item, though Pavel used to go out with Nada's older sister Krista. Nada is a dark creature and a Jewess, and is constantly haunted by the past. She studied European history and for her dissertation wrote a significant work on Adolf Hitler's life. She also has a particular fascination for Hitler's relationship with Geli Raubal, his niece. With narrative referring to the OSS (Office of Strategic Studies) papers that she studied at university on Hitler's psychological profile, we begin to see her reflections on the darker side of human nature.

One late night, after meeting her estranged husband in a crowded bar to try to resolve the legal details of their broken relationship, Daniela disappears without trace and a frantic search now begins.

Meanwhile Uncle Josef has been reunited with Claudine, Václav's mother, but he has a desperate secret that he cannot bring himself to tell her. Instead, on a train journey back to Prague he fills her head with stories and parables, which at times she thinks are both fascinating and silly.

An extract from the novel:

He tried to remember how it had felt to be close to someone, to be so close that every thought which proceeded was the same thought anticipated, how every movement was prefixed with the assumption of the other's approval. How that moment was transfixed with the illusion that love is somehow to blame for feelings that go deeper than the imagination, as if people deceive themselves of the essence or the ability to seek perfection.

A sudden plume of black smoke appeared in front of them and Jaroslav recalled a shout from the pilot's seat, which still rang in his ears as he felt the nose drop and he fell into a kind of trance. He tried not to panic and glanced quickly behind him as the glass of the cockpit shattered and flew past him, searing at his face; cutting it like a knife. He could not see the blue sky anymore and a sudden darkness blurred his vision, just as it had when Claudine had stood in front of the window and he could not see the sky anymore. She wanted to tempt him, and whilst she held her hands on her hips he saw her breathe out momentarily before her lips parted to speak. He didn't want to shut her out of his mind, at least not now. Neither did he want Alice to think he had betrayed her for the same reasons as he had betrayed Libuse. It was the thought that in a few precious seconds, which is all that remained of his miserable life, that he could not resolve the final question of how he had betrayed Alice in the way he had.

When his brother Jiri had died he had always thought of his own death as something illusory, as if it didn't matter anymore, or as if his heart had been wrenched from him and he could not feel the same hurt anymore. Equally, when Alice spoke about the correlation of desire as something that could not be expressed in terms of life or death, he thought of the moment they had met on the bridge and she had looked deep into his eyes. When he glanced back he saw his own reflection, only he wasn't the same person anymore, it was as if he had seen his own end as something empty and without meaning, and he had wasted the last moment he had to reconcile his thoughts and feelings to Alice. On the other hand, he felt that their meeting revived the same desire that he first felt when they walked beside the stream, and he wanted to remember it for reasons of his own.

© 2003 Robin Wilkey

Read More:
The Impact of Kafka
Hitler and Geli
Love and Passion
Notes on the book
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