Robin Wilkey
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Clair Louise, who appears on the cover of
'The Dark Mirror of Desire'

Notes on 'The Dark Mirror of Desire'

The book is the author's second novel, the first being 'The Castle of Longing' published in 1997. 'The Dark Mirror of Desire' was first completed in June 2001 and then went through a number of revisions before being submitted for print.

Originally the book was not in chronological order but this was changed following the first draft. The published version is the ninth draft and was edited again before release.

The difficulty for the author was not the story line which has changed little since the book was first written, but how to deal with issues raised by various characters such as Nada for example, and her views on Hitler and his niece Geli. Geli's extraordinary relationship with Hitler may be viewed by some as rather repulsive.

The other issue was how to deal with the uncertainty between the characters, especially between Ivan and Daniela, who in a sense are the ultimate heroes of the story. Ivan is infatuated with Daniela yet he can never possess her and his relationship is often compared to Proust's fateful characters, Marcel and Albertine.

The poster on the right is the one that is referred to in Chapter 1 of the book, the portrait is of commander-in-chief of the Polish Army, Marshal Smigly Rydz and is translated as:

By order of the President of the Republic, M. Moscicki, and the War Minister, General Kasprzycki, general mobilization throughout Poland was declared. One hundred thousand men joined the regiments within one hour. Force with which strength attacks must be repulsed with equal strength.

Jaroslav, the early hero of the story is leaving Danzig for Warsaw, where his friend Jan is waiting for him so that they can then escape to the border and freedom.

Kafka in 1906

Apart from the obvious references to Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust in the book, there are a number of quirky references even in just the characters names themselves, which bears witness to the author's own sense of humour, and the literary background which inspired the book in the first place.

This begins with the two characters vying for Daniela's attention, Ivan and Klima, which put together as 'Ivan Klima' is one of the most prolific authors of the Czech Republic. He wrote the novel 'Love and Garbage' who's main character abandons an essay he is writing on Kafka to don the orange vest of a Prague road-sweeper. As he works he meditates on Czechoslovakia, on Kafka, on life and art, and on a passionate adulterous love affair.

The character of Claudine in 'The Dark Mirror of Desire' is a reference to the novels of Colette, and in particular the 'Claudine' novels which form part of the French author's most exquisite work. It is said that 'Everything Colette touched became human....'

The frequent references to Marcel and Albertine by Daniela and others is to Marcel Proust's characters in his masterpiece 'In Search of Lost Time' volume 5 'The Captive'.

The name of Libuse, one of Jaroslav's lovers is drawn from the opera of the same name by the nationalist composer Bedrich Smetana. Like the character of the opera she too is fighting for her country and its national identity.

The book is therefore bound with a deep sense of history, however, the stories unfold with compassion and a need to explore and understand human nature both at its most profound and its most diverse.