In the spring of 1968, the Czechoslovakian Communist Party introduced “socialism with a human face”—known as “Prague Spring.” Suddenly the citizens of Czechoslovakia enjoyed the freedom of the Press, an end to arbitrary wiretaps, and the right to travel without prior authorizations and visas. Their borders opened to the West, consumer goods appeared in the stores, and the winds of freedom blew over the country. These reforms were not well received by the Soviet Union. After failed negotiations, suddenly in late August, the USSR sent half a million Warsaw Pact troops and tanks to occupy Czechoslovakia and put an end to this brief experiment. Every citizen had to make a choice: leave or stay? Thousands of Slovaks fearing retribution fled their homeland—some escaped to Vienna—only an hour away by train, others fled farther afield to England, Israel, South America, Canada and the United States.
With a humanism and with a talent for constructing his novel on real testimonies, Slovakia’s foremost writer and playwright, Viliam Klimáček, focuses his novel on characters whose lives were irrevocably affected by both Prague Spring and the Soviet invasion. Vividly retelling their stories, Klimáček reveals how these political events changed their lives and futures forever. By fleeing totalitarianism and repression, they all made the decision to leave their homeland and depart on the perilous journey seeking refuge and freedom in new countries. Some saw their families torn apart; others lost all their possessions or were dispossessed. And, like all immigrants, on arriving at their destinations they had to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. What were their challenges? How successful or happy were they? Would they ever be able to return or reconnect with their families in their homeland? They all now became part of a growing Slovak diaspora in the modern world.
Viliam Klimáček graduated from Bratislava University's Faculty of Medicine. Co-founding the alternative theatre GUnaGU in 1985, he has been its actor, director, and playwright. In the mid-1990s he gave up medical practice, devoting himself entirely to the theatre and writing. His most successful books include the novels Naďa má čas (Naďa is Not in a Hurry, 2002), Námestie kozmonautov (2007) and especially Bratislava 68 : Été brûlant (Horúce leto 68/The Hot Summer of 68, 2011).
Peter Petro currently an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies at the University of British Columbia, was born in Slovakia. He earned his B.A. (1970) and a M.A.(1972) in Russian literature at the University of British Columbia and his Ph.D. in comparative literature (1978) at the University of Alberta. He is the author of several books including a translation of the prize-winning novel by Milan Simecka, The Year of the Frog.
Co-published with Dryad Press
Paper with Flaps, 312 pp
The Hot Summer of 1968, A Novel
June 1, 2021