Jaromil, a young lyric poet. Jaromil was born into overwhelming, devoted, mother love. This devotion is a boon to his childhood but becomes increasingly odious as he grows older. It is his bad fortune to support this love wonderfully. He is a precious boy, pretty rather than handsome, and he has, for his one talent, the dainty art of lyric poetry. His genius is feminine (no one could understand the masculine and feminine humors quite so vividly as a lyric poet), and he wants, with the furious insecurity of youth, to become a man. He works at this, awkwardly, with the help of his two adult loves. One is a redheaded shop girl, for whom he conceives a great passion, and the other is the Czechoslovak Communist revolution. This leads Jaromil to great cruelty. Besides the injustice he does to his own art, making it serve the revolution, he betrays to the revolution both the brother of his redheaded lover (who has the benefit of his omnivorous jealousy) and the modern artist who had first recognized his talent and served as his mentor. He does not live long enough to regret these actions. In the tradition of lyric poets, he stands ridiculously on his dignity. Having been humiliated in public, he ignores a cold night and catches his death of fever. In the weakness of approaching death, he clings to the one certainty of his life: the love of his mother.
Jaromil’s mother, called Maman, an insincere woman who is acted on more than she acts and thus is treated somewhat brutally by the world. To secure some consolation from life, she has settled all of her own hopes on her son. Having mistaken the daring of her first romantic abandon for a great passion, she becomes pregnant. She lives, sometimes proudly, sometimes self-pityingly, through her loveless (and, after Jaromil, childless) marriage, her own unsettling affair with Jaromil’s radical modern art instructor, the loss of her comfortable prerevolution bourgeois life, and Jaromil’s love affairs. Always, she comes back to her one true occupation, her love for her son. Consequently, she faces the greatest disappointment of her life when he dies in early youth. He does not do so without professing (it is almost a deathbed confession) his most tender...
(The entire section is 927 words.)