Josef Škvorecký Biography

Born 1924 in Náchod, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, he graduated in 1943 from the Reálné gymnasium in his native town. As part of Josef Goebbel’s Totaleinsatz scheme, he spent the next two years as a slave labourer in a German aircraft factory.

After World War Two he studied at Charles University in Prague, and received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1952. In 1952 – 1954 he served in the Czechoslovak army, then held editorial jobs in the Odeon Publishing House. His first novel, The Cowards, written in 1948-49 was not published until 1958, immediately condemned by the Communist party, banned and seized by the police. According to many critics, this novel marks the beginning of the end of socialist realism in Czech literature. Škvorecký then published several other books and wrote scripts for feature films.

After the Soviet ambush in 1968 Škvorecký and his wife left for Canada where he continued writing novels, and taught in the Department of English, University of Toronto until his retirement in 1990.

In 1971 Škvorecký and his wife, writer and actress Zdena Salivarová, founded the Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp. which for over twenty years kept publishing banned Czech and Slovak books. For this, the president of post-Communist Czechoslovakia Václav Havel awarded them the Order of the White Lion. In 1992 Škvorecvký was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Among his numerous literary awards, the most important are the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (1980), the Canadian Governor General’s Aaward for Best Fiction (1984), the Czech Republic State Prize for Literature (1999) and the Prize of the Comenius Pangea Foundation “For Improvement of Human Affairs” (2001) which he received with the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda.

Most of his books are awailable in English: the novels The Cowards, Miss Silver’s Past, The Republic of Whores, The Miracle Game, The Swell Season, The Engineer of Human Souls, The Bride of Texas, Dvorak in Love, The Tenor Saxophonist’s Story, Two Murders in My Double Life, An Inexpliocable Story or The Narrative of Questus Firmus Siculus, his selected short stories When Eve Was Naked and the two short novels The Bass Saxophone and Emöke. He also wrote four books of detective fiction featuring Lieutenant Boruvka of the Prague Homicide Bureau :The Mournful Demeanor of Ltn. Boruvka, Sins for Father Knox, The End of Ltn. Boruvka and The Return of Ltn. Boruvka.

His poetry, both published and unpublished, has been brought out in 1999 as …there’s no remedy for this pain.

With his friend, the poet Jan Zábrana, Škvorecký published three more detective novels, Murder for Luck, Murder by Proxy and Guaranteed Murder and a novel for children Tanya and the Two Gunmen (not available in English).

With his wife, the novelist Zdena Salivarova he published (in Czech onlz, so far) three crime novels, Brief Encoounter, with Murder; Encounter After Many Years, with Murder and Encounter at the End of an Era, with Murder.

Škvorecký also published several volumes of short stories; a selection of them was published in English as When Eve Was Naked.

His non-fiction works include Talkin’ Moscow Blues, a book of essays on jazz, literature and politics, an autobiography Headed for the Blues, two books on the Czech cinema, All the Bright Young Men and Women and Jirí Menzel and the History of the “Closely Watched Trains”.

Škvorecký extensively wrote for films and television. The feature film The Tank Battalion, adapted from his novel The Republic of Whores, was the first Czech film made not by the Barrandov State Studios but by a private company, The Bonton Films; it was the biggest box-office success since the fall of communism. Other features, written for Prague TV, include Eine kleine Jazzmusik, adapted from his story of the same name,The Emöke Legend from a novella of the same name, and a two-hour TV drama Poe and the Murder of a Beautiful Girl, based on the murder of Mary Rogers of New York which Poe had used for his story “The Mystery of Marie Roget”. Three very successful TV serials were made from his stories: Sins for Father Knox, The Swell Season and Murders for Luck.
Josef Škvorecký and his wife Zdena Salivarová live in Toronto, Canada.

Josef Škvorecký Bibliography

Josef Škvorecký is a writer, translator, Professor Emeritus of English and Film, University of Toronto

Guggenheim Fellow
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, State University of
New York at Binghamton 1986
Doctor scientiae artium honoris causa, Masaryk University, Brno 1991
Doctor of Laws honoris causa, The University of Calgary, 1992
Doctor of Letters honoris causa, University of Toronto, 1992
Doctor Litterarium, McMaster University, Hamilton 1993
Awarded Order of the White Lion by the President of Czechoslovakia Václav Havel, 1990
Appointed Member of the Order of Canada, 1992
Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, République Francaise, 1996
Recipient of the Ontario Bicentennial Medal
Recipient of the T.G.Masaryk Honorary Medal, 1998
František Martin Pelcl Medal, Rychnov n/K, 1990
The Palacký University Medal, Olomouc, 1990

Laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, 1980
Governor General’s Literary Award for Best Fiction, 1984
Czech Republic’s State Prize for Literature, 1999
Prize of the Comenius Pangea Foundation “For Improvement of Human Affairs”, 2001
Echoing Green Foundation Literary Prize, New York, 1990
Silver Award 1981 for Best Fiction published in Canadian Magazines, 1980
City of Toronto Award for the Best Book of 1984
Author’s Award of the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters 1988
Artur Ellis Award for Best Crime Fiction (short story), 1989
Karel Polácek Prize for Humane Humour, 1998
Special Award of the Prague Science Fiction Academy, 1999
Toronto Arts Award, 1999
Honorary Citizen of the Capital City of Prague, 1990
Honorary Citizen of the town of Náchod, 1990
Honorary Member of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science in America, 1988
Honorary Member of the Kafka and Prague Society, 1990

Writer-in-Residence, University of Toronto, 1970-71
Writer-in-Residence, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 1984
Writer-in-Residence, The University of British Columbia, 1984

Writer-in-Residence, Amherst College, 1985-6
Fellow of the Australian National University, Canberra, 1990

Member of the Board of Directors, Toronto Arts Council, 1984-5
Honorary Chairman, The Miloš Havel Foundation, Barrandov Studios,Inc., Prague
Honorary Chairman, The Egon Hostovský Literary Prize



1. Zbabelci (The Cowards): Cs.Spisovatel, Prague 1958, 1964, 1966; Naše vojsko, Prague; 1968, Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., 1972; Odeon, Prague, 1991 (Vol. I., Collected Works); Lidové niviny, Ceská knižnice (a critical edition with commentaries), Prague1998
Translations: 1. Denmark (Hasselbach, 1967)
2. Yugoslavia (Prosveta, 1967)
3. Hungary (Tatran, 1968)
4. Federal Rep. of Germany (Luchterhand, 1968)
5. Italy (Rizzoli, 1969)
6. U.S.A. (Grove Press, 1970; paper 1971)
7. Great Britain (Gollancz, 1970)
8. Poland (Slask, 1970)
9. Great Britain (Penguin Modern Classics, 1972)
10. France (Gallimard, 1978)
11. Canada (Panguin Canada, 1980)
12. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1980)
13. Federal Rep. of Germany (Greno, 1986)
14. Great Britain (King Penguin, 1986)
15. Spain (Alianza Tres, 1990)
16. Holland (Ambo, 1992)2.
17. Germany (Eichborn, 1993)
18. Great Britain (Faber & Faber, 1994)
19. Canada (Vintage, Random, 1995)
20. Hungary (Európa Könivkiadó, 1998)
21. Germany (Deuticke, 2000)

2. Konec nylonového veku (End of the Nylon Age): banned by censors, 1956; Cs.Spisovatel, Prague, 1967, Odeon, Prague, 1991 (Volume I., Collected Works), Ivo Železný, 1998,
Translations: 1. German Democratic Republic (Volk und Welt, 1969 – banned)

3. Lvíce (Miss Silver’s Past): Cs.Spisovatel, Prague, 1969, 1970 (this edition was confiscated), Sixty-Eight Publishers,Corp. 1974; Železný, Praha, 1996 (Volume V., Collected Works)
Translations: 1. Federal Rep. of Germany (Luchterhand, 1971)
2. Italy (Garzanti, 1971)
3. France (Gallimard, 1972)
4. Yugoslavia (Založba Obzorja,Slovenian ed., 1973)
5. Yugoslavia (Stvarnost, Chroatian ed., 1973)
6. Spain (Dopesa, 1973)
7. U.S.A. (Grove Press, 1975)
8. Great Britain (The Bodley Head, 1976)
9. Sweden (Norstedt, 1978)
10. Great Britain (Picador, 1980)
11. Holland (Bert Bakker, 1983)
12. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1985)
13. Federal Rep. of Germany (Rowohlt, 1986)
14. Israel (Am Oved, 1988)
15. Spain (Circe, 1990)
16. Poland (Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy,1992)
17. Canada (Vintage,Random, 1995)
18. Great Britain (Vintage, 1995)
19. Hungary (Európa Könivkiadó, 1999)

4. Tankový prapor (The Tank Battalion; translated into English as The Republic of Whores): Cs.Spisovatel, Prague 1969 (this edition was confiscated); Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., 1971, 1972, 1980; Galaxie, Prague 1990
Translations: 1. France (Gallimard, 1969; paper 1984)
2. Yugoslavia (Znanje, Chroatian ed., 1972, 1986)
3. Denmark (Samlerens Forlag, 1973: Danish Book Club Choice)
4. Canada (Knopf Canada, 1993)
5. England (Faber & Faber, 1994)
6. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1994)
7. Hungary (Európa Könivkiadó, 1997)
8. Brasil (Editoria Record, 1999)
Excerpts in:
1. Federal Rep. of Germany (chapter “Die Nacht im Garnisongefangniss” in Pavel Kohout, Mein Lesebuch, Fischer Verlag,1983)
2. Canada (chapter “Fucík Medal Exams” in Erindale Review, 1985)
3. Holland (chapter “Een les in katholicisme” in anthology Tsjecjoslowakije: Verhalen van deze ti jd, Muellenhof, Amsterdam, 1989)
4. Russia (In Šumnoe Odinocestvo, MZV Praha)

5 Mirákl (The Miracle Game): Sixty-Eight Publishers,Corp.,Toronto,1972, 1977; Atlantis, Brno,1991; Ivo Železný, Praha 1998, Vol. 8 Collected Works;
Translations: 1. France (Gallimard, 1978)
2. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1990)
3. Great Britain (Faber and Faber, 1991)
4. Yugoslavia (Graficky zavod Hrvatske, 1988)
5. U.S.A. (Knopf, 1991)
6. Great Britain (Faber and Faber, 1992, paperback)
7. U.S.A. (Norton, 1992)
8. Canada (Harper Collins, 1992)
9. Hungary (Európa, 1993)
10. Germany (Deuticke, 2001)
11. Canada (Key Porter, 2002)
Excerpts in:
1. U.S.A. (Chapter “Middle-Aged Men on their Flying Trapezes” , in Formations, vol.1, no.1, 1984, pp. 91-107)
2. Great Britain (“Miracles”, in Granta, vol.13, 1984,pp.21-48)

6. Prima sezóna (The Swell Season): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.,Toronto, 1975; Dialog, Franfurt/M., 1984; Galaxie,Praha, 1990; Odeon, Praha (Vol.1. ,Collected Works.1991)
Translations: 1. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1982)
2. Great Britain (Chatto and Windus, 1983)
3. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1986)
4. Canada (Collins, 1985)
5. Norway (Tiden Norsk Forlag, 1987)
6. Yugoslavia (Mladost, 1986)
7. Great Britain (Picador, 1989)
8. Canada (Calliope du Roseau, 1991 – French)
9. Canada (Harper Perennial, 1991)
10. Great Britain (Faber & Faber, 1994)
11. Spain (Circe Ediciones,1991)
12. Slovenia (Založba, 1993)
13. Roumania (Editura Atlantis,1993
14. Great Britain (Vintage, 1994)
15. Germany (Deuticke, 1997)
16. Germany (Piper paperback, 1999)
17. Canada (Key Porter Books, 1999)
18. Poland (Twój STYL,1999)
19. China (Taiwan, New Sprouts , 2001)
Individual stories in:
1. Canada (Canadian Fiction Magazine, Nov.1980, story “Oh, Maytime Witch!”
2. Canada (CFM Anthology,1981, story: “A Family Hotel”)
3. U.S.A. (Cross Currents, 1982, story: “Sad Autumn Blues”)
4. Canada (Best Canadian Short Stories,1982, story “A Family Hotel”
5. Canada (Exile,vol.9, no.1, story “Oh, Maytime Witch”)
6. France (Le saxophone basse, Gallimard, 1983, story “Une sorciere du mois du mai”)

7. Konec porucíka Boruvky (The End of Lieutenant Boruvka): Sixty-Eight Publishers,Corp.,, Toronto, 1975
Translations: 1. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1989)
2. U.S.A. (Norton, 1990)
3. Great Britain (Faber and Faber,1990)
4. Denmark (KLIM, 1991)
5. Poland (Przedswit, 1992)
6. Roumania (Editura militara, 1992)
7. Canada (Key Porter)
Individual stories in :
1. Canada (“Strange Archeology” in Beverly Bentham-Endersby (eds.) Fingerprints, Irwin Publish- ing, Toronto, 1984, pp. 131-166)
2. Canada (“The Pirates” in Descant, 1986)

8. Príbeh inženýra lidských duší (The Engineer of Human Souls): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1977,1989; Atlantis, Brno 1992; Ivo Železný, Praha (Vol.16 & !7 Collected Works)
Translations: 1. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1984)
2. U.S.A. (Knopf, 1984)
3. Great Britain (Chatto and Windus, 1985)
4. U.S.A. (Washington Square Paperback, 1985)
5. Canada (Collins Paperbacks, 1985)
6. Sweden (Bromberg, 1986)
7. Great Britain (Picador Paperbacks, 1986)
8. Finland (Otava Publishers, 1989)
9. Brasil (Distribuidora Record de Servicos de Imprensa, contract signed 1999)
10. Holland (Bert Bekker, 1989)
11. Spain (Circe, 1989)
12. Portugal (Publicaoes Dom Quixote,1990)
13. Canada (Key Porter Books, 1993)
14. Great Britain (Vintage, 1994)
15. Germany (Deuticke, 1998)
16. U.S.A. (Dalkey Archive Press, 1999
17. Italy (Contract signed 2001)
18. Israel (HaKibbutz Hameuchad, 1992)
Excerpts in:
1. France (Gallimard, in Le saxophone basse, 1983, chapter “Un manuscript en contrabande”)

9. Návrat porucíka Boruvky (The Return of Lieutenant Boruvka): Sixty Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1980
Translations: 1. Yugoslavia (Mladinska knjiga, 1986)
2. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1991)
3. U.S.A. (Norton, 1991)
4. Great Britain (Faber and Faber, 1990)
5. Great Britain (Faber and Faber, 1991,paperback)
6. Poland (Przedswit, 1992)
7. Colombia (Editorial Norma, 1997)

10. Scherzo capriccioso (Dvorak In Love): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto 1984; Odeon, Prague 1991
Translations : 1. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1986)
2. U.S.A. (Knopf, 1986)
3. Great Britain (Chatto and Windus, 1986)
4. Canada (Totem Books, 1987)
5. U.S.A. (Norton, 1988)
6. Holland (Ambo, 1990)
7. Canada (Harper Perennial,1991)
8. Chroatia (Matica hrvatska, 2000)
Excerpts in:
1. Great Britain (Index on Censorship Anniversary Issue, 1981, one chapter)
2. Canada (Scat, Spring,1984: “The Master’s Floozie”)

11. Nevesta z Texasu (The Bride From Texas): Sixty-Eight Publishers,Corp., Toronto, 1992; Naše vojsko, Prague 1993

Translations: 1.Canada (Knopf Canada, 1995)
2.U.S.A. (Knopf, 1996)
3.Great Britain (Faber & Faber, 1996)
4. Canada (Knopf Canada, paperback, 1996)

12. Two Murders in My Double Life (Dve vraždy v mém dvojím živote): Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1999

Translations and Other English Editions:
1. Czech Republic (Ivo Železný, 1996) Volume 6, Collected Works,
2. U.S.A. (Farrar,Straus & Giroux, 2001)
3. France (Anatolia, Éditions du Rocher, 2001)
4. Poland (Tvój STYL,2000)
5. Brasil (Editora Record, 2002)

13. Nevysvetlitelný príbeh aneb Vyprávení Questa Firma Sicula (En Inexplicable Story or the Nerrative of Questus Firmus Siculus): Ivo Železný 1998, Volume 11 Collected Works,
Translations: 1. Canada (Key Porter Books, 2002)

14. Krátké setkání, s vraždou with Zdena Salivarová (Brief Encounter, With Murder): Ivo Železný, 1999

15. Setkání po letech, s vraždou with Zdena Salivarová (Encounter After Many Years, With Murder( Ivo Železný, 2001)

16. Setkání na konci éry, s vraždou with Zdena Salivarová (Encounter at the End of an Era, With Murder) Ivo Železný, 2001)


1. Legenda Emoke (The Legend of Emoke) Cs.Spisovatel, Prague 1963,1965; 0deon, Prague, 1966; Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.,Toronto, 1982 (in Dve legendy); Primus, Prague, 1992
Translations : 1. Hungary (Tatran 1966, in the anthology Senki Sem Fog Nevetni)
2. France (Gallimard, 1966)
3. Poland (Czytelnik,
4. Germany (Hanser, 1967)
5. Great Britain (Podprad,London, 1984, Polish translation)

2. Bassaxofon (The Bass Saxophone): Svobodné Slovo, Prague, 1967 (in Babylónský príbeh); Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.,Toronto, 1982 (in Dve legendy); Primus, Prague ,1990 (in Dve legendy)
Translations (the following editions include also Emoke, and an essay “Red Music”) :
1. Canada (Anson-Cartwright, 1977)
2. Great Britain (Chatto and Windus, 1978)
3. U.S.A. (Knopf, 1979)
4. Norway (Cappelen, 1980)
5. Holland (Bert Bakker, 1980)
6. Great Britain (Picador, 1980)
7. France (Gallimard, 1983)
8. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys)
9. Spain (Editions Proa, 1988)
10. Yugoslavia (Prosveta, 1986 – contains also stories about jazz from Horkej svet)
11. Spain (Alianza Editorial, 1988)
12. Italy (Adelphi Edizioni, 1993
13. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1994)
14. Great Britain (Vintage,1994)
15. Brasil (Editoria Record, 1999)
16. Canada (Key Porter Books, 2001)
Bass Saxophone only:
1. Sweden (Bromberg, 1980)

Individual stories in:
1. Great Britain (“Red Music” in Nieregularny Puls, no.17, Winter 1982-83 – Polish translation)

3. Faráruv konec ( End of a Priest): novelization of a film script; Kruh, Hradec Králové, 1969

4. Dve legendy (Two Legends):Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto,1982 (a one-volume edition of The Bass Saxophone,The Legend of Emoke and “Red Music”)

5. Divák v únorové noci (An Observer in the February Night): samizdat, Prague 1948; Listy, Rome, 1989, no.3
Translations: 1. Germany (in Die Prager Moderne, Suhrkamp, 1991

6. Neuilly (Headed for the Blues), Ivo Železný Publisher, Prague, 1996 (Volume IV, Collected Works)
1. U.S.A.(Ecco Press, 1996)
2. Canada (Knopf Canada, 1997)
3. France (Éditions du Rocher, scheduled for 2001)
1. “The Recruiting of Jarka, Code Name Hammer, As Voluntary Police Informer” (an excerpt in Common Knowledge, Oxford University Press, Fall 1994, pp.145-149)


1. Sedmiramenný svícen (The Menorah): Naše vojsko, Prague, 1964; Konfrontation, Zurich, 1974

Translations: 1. Spain (Alberdania, 1996 – Basque Edition)

Individual stories in Czech anthologies: 1. My Teacher, Mr. Katz, The Cuckoo Story (in Souhvezdí smutkku,Epocha, Prague 2003)
Translations of individual stories:
1. Sweden (Wahlström and Widstrand; anthology Ny Tjeckisk och Slovakish prosa,1965 story “Berättelsen om Göken”)
2. Poland (Iskry; anthology 14 ipowiadan czeskich i slowackich, 1966, story: “Eine kleine Jazzmusik”)
3. Great Britain (Oxford University Press anthology Czech and Slovak Stories, story: “The Great Catholic Water Feast”)
4. Denmark (Gyldendahl anthology Noveller fra Tjekkoslovakiet, 1969;story:”Til Rebekka”)
5. U.S.A. (The Literary Review, XüI;1, story: “Eine kleine Jazzmusik”)
6. U.S.A.(Farleigh Dickinson University Press anthology White Stones and Fir Trees, 1977, story: “Eine kleineJazzmusik”)
7. Poland (Odra Magazine,1978, story:”Eine kleine Jazzmusik”)
8. U.S.A.( Jazzletter, California, 1982, story: “Eine kleine Jazzmusik”)
9. France (Gallimard, Le saxophone basse,1983, story: “Rebecca”)
10. Canada (WRIT, no.14, 1982, story “Rebecca”)
11. Germany (H.Beck, Munchen, anthology Die Juden in Bohmen und Mahren, story:”Wegen einer lumpigen Perlenschnur”)
12. Australia (The Phoenix Review, no.1, Summer 1986/87, story :”The Cuckoo”)
13. U.S.A.(Penguin Books USA anthology, Marcela Breton, Editor, Hot and Cool; Jazz Short Stori es, 1990, story “Eine kleine Jazzmusik”)
14. U.S.A.(The Troubadour, Vol.I.,issue 1, 1995, story: “My teacher, Mr. Katz”, pp.93-106
15. Canada, in When Eve Was Naked (Key Porter, 2001), stories: “My Uncle Kohn”, “My Teacher, Mr. Katz”, “Dr. Strass”, “The Cuckoo”, “Fragments about Rebecca”
16. U.S.A., in When Eve Was Naked (Farrar, Straus & Giroux], stories: “My Uncle Kohn”, “My Teacher Mr. Katz”, “Dr.Strass”, ‘The Cuckoo”,”Fragments about Rebecca”
17. Czech Republic in Souhvezdí Smutku – The Constellation of Sadness (Epocha, Prague) stories:” My Teacher Mr. Katz” and “The Cuckoo”.

2. Ze života lepší spolecnosti (The Life of High Society): Mladá Fronta, Prague, 1965
Individual stories in German, Polish, Swiss and Bulgarian papers and magazines

3. Smutek porucíka Boruvky (The Mournful Demeanor of Lieutenant Boruvka):Mladá fronta, Prague, 1966,1968,1991; Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1975
Translations: 1. Hungary (Europa, 1968)
2. Rumania (Editura Pentru Literatura Universala, 1969, 1991)
3. Great Britain (Gollancz, 1974)
4. Finland (Werner Soderstrom, 1980)
5. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1987)
6. U.S.A. (Norton, 1987)
7. Great Britain (Faber and Faber, 1987)
8. Denmark (KLIM, 1990)
9. France (Editions de l’Aube. 1999)
10. Canada (Key Porter, 2001)
Individual stories in:
1. U.S.A. (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, October 1967, story “The Classical Semerak
2. Germany (Volk und Welt anthology Der Fall mit dem verdrehten Schal, 1968, story:
“Leutnant Boruvkas wissenschaftliche Methode”)
3. Australia (Red Point, issue 10, 1992, story “Death on Needlepoint”)
4. Australia (Red Point, issue 14/August 1993, story “A View from the Tower”)
5. Canada (Canadian Mystery Stories, ed. by Alberto Manguel, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1991, story “An Intimate Business)
6. Poland (Przekrój,Nos. 33-34, 1994, story “Crime in a Girls’ School”)
7. Canada (Peter Selles. Ed.. Arthur Ellis Awards. An Anthology of Prize-Winning Crime and
Mystery Fiction,1999, story “Humbug”.
8. England (Patricia Craig. Ed., The Oxford Book of Detective Stories,2000, story “The Classical
Semerak Case”)

4. Babylónský príbeh (A Babylonian Story): Svobodné Slovo, Prague, 1967
Translations of individual stories in Polish, Swedish, German and Russian papers and magazines.
See also SHORT NOVElS : The Bass Saxophone, and COLLECTIONS OF SHORT STORIES : Le saxophnone basse (Gallimard 1983, story “Babylone sur Vltava”)

5. Horkej svet (The Bitter World): Odeon, Prague, 1969,1991; Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto,1978
Translations of individual stories in:
1. Poland (PAX anthology Wiecej niz milošc,1964, story “Truej mlodziankowie w piecu ognistym”)
2. U.S.S.R.(Molodaja gvardia anthology Domovoj mastylšcika Gousky, 1964, story “Moj neputevij papa”)
3. Czechoslovakia (Orbis anthology Seven Short Stories, 1965, story “Oh, My Papa!”)
4. Yugoslavia (Mladinska knjiga anthology Cas nespecnosti, 1967, story “Moj ocka važic i ja”)
5. Germany (Horst Erdmann Verlag anthology Meine Freundin Julca, story “Mein Vater
Leichtfuss und ich”)
6. Great Britain (Penguin anthology New Writing in Czechoslovakia, 1968, story “Song of the For gotten Years”)
7. U.S.A. (Evergreen Review, March 1969, story “Pink Champagne”)
8. Denmark (Gyldendahls Magazin, story “Sangen fra de forglemte ar”)
9. Germany (Die Zeit, October 1979, story “Der Bebop des Richard Kambala”)
10. Holland (Avenue, August 1972, story “Eva was toen naakt”)
11. Germany (Hoffmann und Campe Verlag anthology Neunundzwanzig neue Kurzgeschichten aus der Zeit, story “Der Bebop des Richard Kambala”)
12. France (Gallimard, Le saxophone basse, 1983, stories “Eve était nue”,”Déja, du temps des pyrami des…”,”La fin de Bull Mácha”,”Du travail pour le service du personnel”)
13. Canada (Prism International, July 1983, story “An Insolvable Problem of Genetics”)
14. Canada (Rampike, 1985, story “The Bebop of Richard Kambala”)
15. U.S.A. (Confrontation, Winter 1985, story “The Well-Endowed Lizetka”)
16. Canada (Ethos, autumn 1986, story “Little Mata Hari of Prague”)
17. U.S.A.(Norton anthology Sudden Fiction, 1989, story “An Insolvable Problem of Genetics”)
18. U.S.A. (Antaeus, Spring-Autumn 1990, story “The Onset of My Literary Career”)
19. U.S.A. (San Francisco State University Review, Fall 1994, story: “The End of Bull Mácha”)
20. U.S.A. (San Francisco State University Review, Spring 1995, story: “How They Got Nabbed”)
21. Sweden (Kapten Stofil, No.9, Göteborg, story “The End of Bull Mácha”)

6. Hríchy pro pátera Knoxe (Sins for Father Knox): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1973; Mladá fronta, Prague, 1991
Translations : 1. Canada (Lester Orpen Dennys, 1988)
2. U.S.A.(Norton, 1988)
3. Great Britain (Faber and Faber,1989)
4. Japan (Hayakawa, 1991)
5. Argentina (Grupo Editorial Norma, 1999)
6. France (L’aube noire, 1999)

7. Ze života ceské spolecnosti (The Life of Czech Society): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1985
Translations : 1. Yugoslavia (Decie novine, Ljubljana,1987)

8. Povídky tenorsaxofonisty (The Tenor Saxophonist’s Story): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., 1993. Ivo Železný, Publisher, Prague 1994 (Vol.ü., Collected Works)
Translations : 1. U.S.A. (The Ecco Press, 1996)
2. Canada (In Headed for the Blues, Knopf Canada, 1997)
3. England (Faber & Faber, 1998)
4. Brasil (Imago Editora, 1998
5. Hungary (Europa Könivkiadó. 2001)
Translations of individual stories in:
1. U.S.A. (Antaeus, The Final Issue 1994, story “A Case for Political Inspectors”, pp. 184-189)

9. Povídky z Rajského údolí (The Edenvale Stories): Ivo Železný, Publisher, Prague, 1996)
Translations of individual stories in:
1. Canada (Descant, 1997; story “Jezabel of Forest Hill)

10. When Eve Was Naked (Key Porter Books, Toronto, 2000)
1. U.S.A. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

Individual Stories in:
1. Canada (Exile, Vol. 24, No.2, story “Filthy Cruel World”, pp. 91-122)

1. The New Men And Women (CBC Radio, 1877)
Translations : Germany (Suddeutscher Rundfunk, 1977; Deutschlansender, 1978; and several other German stations. Nominated “Play of the Month” by the German Academy of Arts, June 1978; the play was written in English)

2. Buh do domu (God in Your Home): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1980 ; produced by New Czech Theatre, Toronto, 1980.
Awarded First Prize at the Multicultural Theatre Festival in Hamilton, ON, 1980. Taped for Czech TV Kitchener, ON 1980.


1. Nápady ctenáre detektivek (Reading Detective Stories): Cs.Spisovatel, Prague,1965,1967; Rozmluvy, London, 1988; AIEP, Prague, 1990
Translations : 1. Hungary (Európa 1966)

2. O nich – o nás (They – That Is: Us): Kruh, Hradec Králové, 1968. A book of essays on American authors (Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and E.S.Gardner)

3. Samožerbuch (The Book of Self-Praise): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp. Toronto, 1977; Panorama, Prague, 1991. Co-author: Zdena Salivarová. A history of the Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., and comments on some of the books published by the house.

4. Všichni ti bystrí mladí muži a ženy: osobní historie ceského filmu (All The Bright Young Men And Women; A Personal History of Czech Cinema): Horizont, Prague, 1991
Translations : Canada (Peter Martin Associates, Toronto, 1972, 1975)

5. Na brigáde (Working Overtime): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1979. Essays on post-1968- Soviet-Invasion novels published by establishment publishing houses in Czechoslovakia. The volume includes essays on “normalized” poetry written by Antonín Brousek.

6. Jirí Menzel and the History of the Closely Watched Trains: East European Monographs, University of Colorado Press, Boulder, CO, 1982. A comparative study of the two fictional and one film versions of the novel Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal.(The book was written in English)

7. Talkin’ Moscow Blues: Lester Orpen Dennys, Toronto, 1988; Ecco Press, New York, 1990; Faber and Faber,London, 1990. Essays on jazz, literature, film and politics, printed originally in various American magazines, and written in English.

8. Franz Kafka, jazz a jiné marginálie ( Franz Kafka, Jazz and other Marginal Matters): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., 1988. Mostly Czech translations of essays in Talkin’ Moscow Blues; some essays omitted, others added.

9. …in the lonesome October : Harbourfront Reading Series Booklet, Toronto, 1994)

10. Le Camarade Joueur de jazz (Anatolia, Paris, 1996)


1. Velká povídka o Americe (A Tall Tale Of America): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1980; Kruh, Hradec Králové, 1992
Translations of individual chapters:
1. U.S.A. (Evergreen Review, September 1970, story “The Uncelebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”)
2. U.S.A. (Catbird Press anthology Here We Are: The Humorists’ Guide to the United States, 1991, story “The Largest Oddest Building”)


1. Nezoufejte! (Don’t Despair!): Poezie mimo domov, Munchen, 1979; Josef Škvorecký Club, Prague, 1990

2. Dívka z Chicaga (The Girl from Chicago): Poezie mimo domov, 1980; Josef Škvorecký Club, Prague, 1990

3. Blues libenského plynojemu (The Liben Gass Tank Blues): Bibliophile Print, Pilsen, 1992

3. …na tuhle bolest nejsou prášky (…there’s no Remedy for this Pain): Ivo Železný, Prague, 1999. Vol 12, Collected Works,


1. I Was Born In Náchod; an Autobiographical Sketch in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Gale Research Company, Detroit, 1984; Granta 14, Winter 1984 (a slightly abbreviated version, titled “Failed Saxophonist”)
Translations : 1. Czech Republic (Blízká setkání, 1994; translated as Príbeh neúspešného saxofonisty
2. Poland (Swiat Literacki, 1999)

2. Headed for the Blues (translation of Neuilly)
1. U.S.A. (Ecco Press, 1996)
2. Canada (Knopf Canada, 1997)
3. England (FAber and Faber, 1998)
4. France (Editions du Rocher, scheduled for 2001)

3. Jaroslav Suchý (Ed.): Náchod, That Beautiful Town of Kostelec (Náchod, to krásné mesto Kostelec). Publ. by The Josef Škvorecký Society, Prague. This is a picture book of my native town. All texts are
quotations from my books pertaining to the various localities shown on the photographs

1. Oh, My Papa! (Asahi Press, Tokyo, 1972: an English Language
Edition for Students of English, with Japanese annotations)


1. Seeking the Holy Grail. In Kosmas, Volume 14, Number 2, Spring 2001, pp.113 – 115


1. Lída Baarová : Úteky; Vlastní životopis Lídy Baarové, jak jej vyprávela Josefu Škvoreckému (The Escapes; an Autobiography of Lída Baarová as Told to Josef Škvorecký): Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1983. An autobiography of the Czech Film and Stage Star, who was the femme fatale of Josef Goebbels.


1. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1956, 2001 (with Jarmila Emmerová)
2. Henry James, The Aspern Papers, 1958 (with P.L.Doružka)
3. Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1958
4. William Faulkner, A Fable, 1965 (with P.L.Doružka; received the 1966 Annual Award for Best Translation, sponsored by the Writers’ Union
5. Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt, 1962
6. Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, 1962
7. Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key, 1963, 1992
8. Raymond Chandler, The Lady In The Lake, 1965
9. William Styron, The Long March, 1968
10. Warren Miller, The Cool World, 1963 (under the name of Jan Zábrana; this edition was banned at first, then two years later released in a restricted printrun only for the use of scholars and pedagogues. Reprinted in 1990)
11. Martina Navrátilová : Já jsem já, 1985 (translation of the tennis player’s autobiography published in English as Martina)


1. Selected Writings of Sinclair Lewis (Odeon, Prague, started 1962)
2. Collected Writings of Ernest Hemingway (Odeon, Prague, started 1965)
3. Three Times Hercule Poirot: Three Novels by Agatha Christie (Odeon, Prague, 1967)
4. Three Times Lord Peter: Three Novels by Dorothy Sayers (Odeon, Prague, 1979, 1991. My name did not appear in the 1979 edition, since after leaving the country, I was blacklisted)
5. Tvár jazzu I. (The Face of Jazz I.): SHV, Prague 1966 (an anthology of essays on the history and aesthetics of jazz music, of biographies of famous musicians etc.Part I. covers the history till the emergence of be-bop. Edited and translated with P.L.Doružka)
6. Tvár jazzu ü. (The Face of Jazz ü.): SHV, Prague, 1970. Edited and translated with P.L.Doružka. My name was deleted from this edition because of blacklisting; covers the history from be-bop till the sixties.
7. Jazzová inspirace (The Jazz Inspiration): Odeon, Prague, 1966. An anthology of poetry, both American and Czech, inspired by jazz music. Edited with P.L.Doružka. Contains also my poems “An Ode to Eva FitzPilarová” and “The Liben Gass Tank Blues”, reprinted later in the West in the anthology Almanach ceské zahranicní poezie 1979, publ. by Poezie mimo domov, Munchen
8. Nachrichten aus der CSSR (News from Czechoslovakia): Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt, 1968. An anthology of essays, articles and cartoons from the Writers’ Union weekly Listy,1968


1. Regular disc-jockey programs on Radio Prague featuring old swing music and called Six in an Armchair (Šest na lenošce) 1965-68. With P.L.Doružka

2. Josef Škvorecký in His Own Words. A four-hour programme from the author’s writings with his commentary: CBC Stereo 1983

3. The End of Lieutenant Boruvka. A BBC dramatisation, London 1976)


Fortnightly theatre reviews in Divadelní noviny (Theatre News) Prague, 1967-68

AMERICAN NOVELS AND POETRY (in alphabetical order)

1. Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim, 1959
2. Saul Bellow, Herzog, 1968
3. Ambrose Bierce, Moxon’s Master and Other Stories, 1966
4. Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1960
5. Roark Bradford, Ol’ Man Adam and His Chillun and Ol’ King David an’ the Philistine Boys, 1957 (with P.L. Doružka)
6. Raymond Chandler, The Lady In The Lake, 1965
7. Raymond Chandler, Three Times Phil Marlowe (The Big Sleep; The Long Good-Bye; Farewell My Lovely), 1967
8. Raymond Chandler, The High Window, 1969
9. Agatha Christie, Three Plays, 1965
10. Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, 1967
11. Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, 1958
12. A.J.Cronin : The Northern Light, 1962
13. Charles Dickens, The Chimes, 1955
14. F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, The Last Tycoon and Other Tales of the Jazz Age, 1970
15. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, 1967
16. Graham Greene, A Sense of Reality, 1967
17. Shirley Graham, There Was Once a Slave, 1957 (with P.L.Doružka)
18. Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key, 1963
19. Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man, 1964
20. Dashiell Hammett, The Red Harvest, 1967
21. Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1958
22. Ernest Hemingway, Stories, 1965
23. Ernest Hemingway, The Green Hills of Africa, 1965
24. Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, 1966
25. Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1969
26. Henry James, The Aspern Papers, 1958 (with P.L.Doružka)
27. Sinclair Lewis, The Man Wo Knew Coolidge, 1957
28. Sinclair Lewis, Ann Vickers, 1958
29. Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt, 1962
30. Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith, 1967
31. Sinclair Lewis, Kingsblood Royal, 1967
32. H.P.Lovecraft, Selected Stories, 1992
33. Bernard Malamud, Idiots First, 1966
34. E.A.Poe, The Five Detective Stories, 1964
35. Ellery Queen, The Halfway House, 1968
36. Budd Schulberg, The Harder They Fall, 1964
37. Alan Sillitoe, Key to the Door, 1965
38. Rex Stout, A Right To Die, 1967
39. Rex Stout, Some Buried Caesar, 1967
40. Rex Stout, The League of the Frightened Men, 1969
41. Jesse Stuart, Taps for Private Tussey, 1964
42. Dylan Thomas, Selected Poems, 1958
43. Tennessee Williams, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,1966
44. H.P.Lovecraft, Selected Stories (Šepot ve tme), 1992
45. Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1999


Numerous contributions to many Czech and Slovak literary, film, music and cultural magazines; after 1968 many contributions to various emigré journals; after 1989 contributions to magazines both in Czechoslovakia and abroad.


1. Revue pro banjo (The Banjo Show), 1965. A script featuring American folksongs. Director Zdenek Podskalský.

2. Vedecké metody porucíka Boruvky (The Scientific Methods of Lieutenant Boruvka) 1967-68. A TV serial based on the stories The Mournful Demeanor of Ltn. Boruvka. Director Pavel Blumenfeld.

3. Vražda v zastoupení. (Murder by Proxy) Czech TV Brno. This was a dramatization of the novel I had written with Jan Zábrana. Made in the last year of the existence of the Communist regime, it made me the only exiled writer to have a film made in Communist Czechoslovakia. The authorities had of course no idea that I was the author.

4. Hríchy pro pátera Knoxe (Sins for Father Knox). Directed by Dušan Klein. Czech Television, 1992. A ten-part serial based on my book Sins for Father Knox. I did not write the script

5. Prima sezóna (The Swell Season). A five-part TV series based on my novel of the same name. Directed by Karel Kachyna. Czech Television, 1994. I did not write the script.

6. Poe a vražda krásné dívky (Poe and the Murder of a Beautiful Girl). A TV feature film based on Poe’s story “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and on the actual murder of Mary Rogers. Written by myself, directed by Viktor Polesný. Czech Television, 1996.

7. Eine kleine Jazzmusik. A TV film based on my short story of the same name. Directed by Zuzana Zemanová. Czech Television, 1996. I did not write the script.

8. Legenda Emôke. A TV film based on my short novel of the same name. Directed by Vojtech Štursa. Czech Television, 1997. I did not write the script.

9. Malá pražská matahára (The Little Mata Hari of Prague), a TV feature script witten by myself and based on my book The Tenor Saxophonist’s Story. Contract signed, scheduled for 1998 by Czech Television.

10. Prípady kanceláre Ostrozrak (The Cases of the Ostrozrak Detective Agency); based on three detective novels co-written with the late Jan Zábrana (see WORKS WRITTEN UNDER PSEUDONUM]). Czech Television, 2000, directed by Karel Smyczek. I didn’t write the script.


1. Zlocin v dívcí škole (Crime in a Girls’ School), 1966. An anthology film containing three medium-length stories directed by Jirí Menzel, Ivo Novák and Ladislav Rychman

2. Tána a dva pistolníci (Tána and the Two Gunmen). Directed by Radim Cvrcek. This was a feature based on the novel of the same name which I had written with Jan Zábrana. The Authorities had no idea that I was the co-author. The film was awarded the Grand Prize at the Children’s Film Festival in Moscow

3. Zlocin v šantánu (Crime in a Night Club), 1968. Directed by Jirí Menzel

4. Faráruv konec (End of a Priest), 1968. Directed by Evald Schorm

5. Flirt se slecnou Stríbrnou (Miss Silver’s Past), 1969. Directed by Václav Gajer; based on my novel Lvíce (Miss Silver’s Past)

6. Šest cerných dívek (The Six Brunettes), 1969. Directed by Ladislav Rychman

7. Tankový prapor (The Tank Battalion), 1991. Based on my novel of the same name. The first privately produced feature film in Czechoslovakia since 1945. I did not write the script


1. Nápady ctenáre detektivek (Reading Detective Stories), 1967. Based on my book of the same name. Directed by Václav Táborský. I did not write the script

2. Pulnocní dezertéri (Midnight Defectors), 1972, directed by Zdenek Smetana. A cartoon film made from my script entitled Osudný žertík (The Fateful Joke). My name was deleted from credits because of post-Soviet-ambush blacklisting, very little is left of my original script, and there is no joke. The film is a veritable abortion.


1. Mirákl (DISK, Praha 1992)
2. Príbeh inženýra lidských duší (Divadlo Na provázku, Brno, 2001)


After 1959, when my novel The Cowards had been banned and I had lost my job as editor of Svetová literatura magazine, I published four novels (three detective novels and one childern’s book) under the name of my friend Jan Zábrana, a poet and translator. We plotted the novels together, and then I wrote them.

1. Vražda pro štestí (Murder for Luck), Mladá fronta, Prague, 1962
Translations: German (Artia, Prague, 1965)

2. Vražda se zárukou (Guaranteed Murder), Mladá fronta 1964, 1965; Cs.Spisovatel, 1969

3. Vražda v zastoupení (Murder by Proxy), Mladá fronta, Prague, 1967; Naše vojsko, Prague 1983; Ceskoslovenský spisovatel, Prague, 1989. This novel contains an acrostic giving the Latin statement “Škvorecký et Zábrana fecerunt ioculum” (read first letter of first word of each consecutive chapter). It was made into a TV feature film by TV Brno in 1988

4. Tána a dva pistolníci (Tanya and the Two Gunmen): Svet Sovetu, Prague 1966. Made into a feature film by director Radim Cvrcek in the Gottwaldov Studios in Moravia in 1967. Awarded the Grand Prize at the Children’s Film Festival in Moscow.


Only articles in languages other than Czech are listed.

1970 – “Czech Fiction Today”, in Novel, a Forum for Fiction, Vol.4, No 1
“The Birth and Death of the Czech New Wave”, in Take One, November 9
1971 – “El escritor y la politica”, in La cultura en Mexico, December 22
1973 – “An Eastern European Imagination”, in Mosaic, VI,4, Winnipeg
1974 – “Ich bin Nicht-Kommunist”, in Europaische Ideen, No.3, West Berlin
1975 – “A Professor”, postscript to Václav Cerný, Dostoevsky’s Devils, Ardis, Ann Arbor
– “Introduction” to Bohumil Hrabal, The Death of Mr. Baltisberger, Doubleday, New York
– “A Discovery in Capek”, in The Armchair Detective, Vol.8, No.3, White Bear Lake, Minnesota
– “Closely Watched Films”, a review of the book by A.J.Liehm, in Take One, No.9
1976 – “At Home in Exile: Czech Writers in the West,” in Books Abroad, No.2, Norman, Oklahoma
– “The Artist’s Fight For Freedom”, in Problems of Communism, Sept.-Oct., Washington, D.C.
1977 – “A Sort of Tribute to K.G.C.”, in The Chesterton Review, Summer, Saskatoon
1978 – “Pavel Kohout, The White Book”, a review in World Literature Today, Spring, Norman, Oklahoma
– “Laughing to Keep from Crying”, a review of Laughable Loves and The Farewell Party by Milan Kundera, in Canadian Forum, August, Toronto
1979 – “Some Notes Towards a Psychopathology of Contemporary Czech Prose” in Index on Censorship, Sep- tember, London
1980 – “Introduction” to Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal, Penguin Books
1981 – “Zu Hause in der Fremde”, in Autoren im Exil, by Karl Corino (ed.), Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, West Germany
1982 – “American Motifs in the Work of Bohumil Hrabal” in Cross Currents, Ann Arbor, Michigan
1983 – “Introduction” to John Paskevich, A Voiceless Song, Lester Orpen Dennys, National Filmboard of Cana- da Book, pp.18-21,Toronto
– “Dlaczego Arlekin” in Zseszyty literacke 3, transl. A.Kolakowska, Paris
– “Panorama of (Unionized) Czech Writers” in World Literature Today, Vol. 57, No.1, Winter, pp. 50-53, Norman, Oklahoma
– “Talkin’ Moscow Blues” a review of Fred Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, in The New Republic, May 9, pp.27-32, Washington, D.C.
– “Prague Winter”, in The American Spectator, Vol. 16, No.9, pp.19-23
– “Ein heisses Eisen: Von der psychologischen Gesetzmasigkeit der Ideologien”, in Kontinent, 3/1983, pp. 37-47
– “Franz Kafka, Jazz, the Antisemitic Reader and Other Marginal Matters”, in Cross Currents, pp.169 -181
– “A Revolution Is Usually The Worst Solution”, in The Writer and Human Rights, Anchor Press/Dou bleday, New York, pp.114-12O
– “What Is Repressive Tolerance?”, in The Writer and Human Rights, Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York, pp. 133-134
1984 – “Living an Orwell Nightmare”, in Toronto Star, January 4, p.A16
– “The Preconditions for 1984” in Medium ü. January 4, Mississauga, pp. 6-7
– “The Fear of Literature: Writing in a State of Siege”, review of the book by André Brink, in The New Republic, April 30, pp. 29-33, Washington, D.C.
– “City After My Own Heart” in William Kilbourn, Toronto Remembered, Stoddart Publishing, pp. 287-291, Toronto
‘ – “Crveni orkestar”, in Delo, July, pp. 80-96, Beograd
– “The Exiled Writer and the Christian Principles” in The Canadian Catholic Review, Vol.2, No.8, pp.290-295
– “Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.” in Die zerbrochene Feder, Thiemanns Weltbibliothek, Stuttgart, pp.94-104
– “Hipness at Noon” in The New Republic, December 17, pp.27-35
– “Why the Harlequin?” in Cross Currents, 3/1984, pp.259-264
– “Les Canadiens souffrent-ils de naiveté politique?” in Liberté 156, décembre, pp.3-2O, Montréal
– “The Mess of Mother Russia”, in The New Republic, December 31, pp. 30-34
– “A Cabaret of Censorship”, in Index on Censorship, Vol.13,
No.5, pp.38-41
– “Are Canadians Politically Naive?” in Canadian Literature, No.100, pp.287-297
– “Miloš Forman, Vera Chytilová, Jirí Menzel” entries in The International Dictionary of Films and
Filmmakers, Vol.ü: Directors/Filmmakers, St.James Press, Chicago
1985 – “Czech Mate: Introducing Jaroslav Seifert, Nobel Laureate”, in The New Republic, February 18, pp.27 -32
– “The Home Front: War and Peace in the CBC”,in The Idler,4,pp.25-26, Toronto
– “A Translator Spills the Beans” in The New York Times Book Review, May 19, pp.1, 34-35
– “On the Scent of Treason”, review of Anthony Hyde, The Red Fox, in The New York Times Book Review, September 1
– “Jaroslav Seifert – The Good Drinking Poet” in Cross Currents, 4/1985,pp. 283-290
– “Natasha amd the Peacemakers”, in The Idler, 6, pp.12-14
– “Czech at the Net”, review of Martina Navrátilová with George Vecsey, Martina, in The New Repub lic, July 29, pp.-28-30
1986 – “Messengers of Freedom”, review of Mike Zwerin, La Tristesse de Saint Louis: Swing under the Nazis, and Leo Feigin (ed.), Russian Jazz. New Identity, in The Times Literary Supplement, May 16, p. 534, London
– “Noise, Fire and Hunger”, review of Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate, in The New York Review of Books, July 16, pp.46-8
– “The Big Insult”, in Cross Currents, 5, pp.123-135
– “What Was Saved From The Wreckage”, review of Peter Hames, The Czechoslovak New Wave, in Sight and Sound, Autumn 1986, pp.278-281
– “Two Peas in a Pod: The Nazis and the Communists Sing the Same Songs”,in The Idler, No.10, pp. 37-43
– “Rules for Nazi Music”, in Fifth Estate,Vol.20,No.4/323, p.18
– “Lída Baarová, Jana Brejchová”, entries in The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Vol.üI: Actors and Actresses, St.James Press, Chicago
– “I Saw Václav Havel for the Last Time”, in Jan Vladislav (ed.) Václav Havel or Living in Truth, Fa ber and Faber, London, pp.274-277
1987 – “Czechoslovakia” in World Cinema Since 1945, Ungar, New York, pp.154-169
– “Franz Kafka, das antisemitische Lesebuch und andere Randbemerkungen”, Oesterreichische Franz Kafka Gesellschaft, Schriftenreihe Band 2, pp.1-23
– “Some Problems of the Ethnic Writer in Canada”, in Canadian Literature, Supplement No. 1, May 1987,pp.82-89
– “Det oavslutade slutet for Jazzsektionen i det tjeckista musikerforbundet” in Ingen ?jazznost? in Pra gue, Charta 77-stiftelsen, Stockholm, pp.16-21
– “Huckleberry Finn: Or, Something Exotic in Czechoslovakia” in The New York Times Book Review, November 8,pp. 47-48
– “Prague Winter” in Orthodoxy, Harper and Row, New York, pp.233-241
– “How I Wrote Dvorák In Love”,in Czech Music in Texas: A Sesquicentennial Symposium, Texas A&M University, pp.159-169
1988 – “The Troublemaker” in The New Republic, March 7, pp.38-39
– “Jamming the Jazz Section”, in The New York Review of Books, June 30, pp.40-42
– “The Gorbachev Prospect: An Exchange with George Kennan”, in The New York Review of Books, March 17, pp.44-45
– “I Like to Sing Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Protektorat Boehmen und Maehren”, in Cross Currents, 7, pp.353-367
– “Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.”,in The Prague Spring:A Mixed Legacy, Freedom House, New York, pp.131-141
1989 – “Light in Darkness”, review of Danilo Kiš, The Encyclopedia of the Dead, in The New Republic, April 10, pp.36-38
– “Two Stories of Jazz in the Heart of Darkness”, in Next Wave: New Music America Journal, Winter 1989,pp.24-29
– “Foxtrott im Politbureau”, in Lettre Internationale, No.7, December, pp.60-62
– “Mit Trommeln und Trompeten”, in Meridian, Marz, pp.90-1
– “Marx Sat In On Rehearsals”, review of Rostislav Dubinski, Stormy Applause, in The New York Ti mes Book Review, June 25, p.12
– “The Art of Survival: Life With A Star by Jirí Weil”, in The New Republic, September 4, pp.30-34
– “Havel Was Helped by St.Agnes”, in The New York Times, December 8,OP/ED page
– “The Last Soviet Domino”, in The Wall Street Journal, November 9
– “Czechoslovakia: The Last Soviet Domino”, in The Wall Street Journal in Europe, November 23
– “Czech Writers: Politicians in Spite of Themselves”, in The New York Times Book Review, Decem ber 10, pp. 1, 43-45
– “Czech-Out Time”, in The New Republic, December 25, pp.15-17
– “Czech Communist Collapse No Surprise”, in The Globe and Mail, December, p.A7
– “Feminine Mystique: a Story”, in Granta, No. 29, – pp.215-229
– “Ambassador Shirleyka”, in The Idler, July-August,p.65
– “How I Learned German, and Later English”, in Antaeus, Autumn 1989, pp.217-226.

1990 – “In Pursuit of the Great American Novel: Jan Novák’s The Willys Dream Kit Comes Awfully Close”, in Bostonia, Jan.Feb., pp.2
– “Stories Outside Stories – The Stories of Arnošt Lustig”, in The World and I, January, pp. 456-459
– “Bohemia of the Soul”, in Daedalus, Winter 1990,pp.111-139
– “The State of Europe” , in Granta, No.30, pp.127-8
– “The President Wrote Absurdist Plays”, in The World and I, March 19, pp.418-427
– “Czech Writers: Politicians in Spite of Themselves”, in Without Force of Lies, Mercury House, San Francisco,pp. 1991 – “Detective Stories: Some Notes on Fingerprints”, in Rough Justice, University of Toronto Press, pp.231-248
– “Drops of Jazz in My Fiction”, in Black American Literature Forum, Vol.25, No.3, pp.621-632
– “Consolations from Left Field”, in The Idler, No.34, p.66
1992 – “Feminine Mystique” in Komet, Almanach der Anderen Bibliothek auf das Jahr 1992, Eichhorn Verlag, pp.38-57
– “Under Toronto”, in Toronto Places, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON
– “Poe, Or Adventures in Literary Science” (Poe aneb dobrodružství v literární vede) in Svetová litera tura, XXXVüI, No.1. pp.16-39.
1993 – “How I Wrote Dvorak in Love”, in Dvorák in America, ed. by John C. Tibbets, Amadeus Press, Portland
1994 – “Tenor Sax Solo from Washington” in Brick, Special 50th Issue, Fall 1994, pp.81-82.
– “Donnernder Fall, wimmernder Fall” in Kunst und Diktatur, Verlag Grasl, 1994, pp. 755-757)1995
– “Tenor Sax Solo from Washington” in Paul Wilson (Ed.) Prague, Whereabout Press, San Francisco, pp.209-213)
– “Convergence of Two Worlds”, a review of Rudi Wiebe’s A Discovery of Strangers, in The Edmon- ton Journal, May 22, p.E6
– “Title-Page Missing” in Paper Guitar, Harper Collins, pp.323-331
– “Saul Bellow”in Salmagundi, Nos 106-7,pp.55-6
1996 – “A magic mountain and a williwy wench” in Toronto Life, March, pp. 84-88
– “Does it Really Matter?” in 2B Journal, No.9-10, Vol. IV. 1996
2000 – Foreword to Jirí Gruša, The Questionnaire, Dalkey Archive Press


1969 – “Contemporary Czech Cinema”, The University of Texas, Austin, TX, April 25
– “Contemporary Czech Cinema and Pop Music”, Seattle University, Seattle, WA,June 10
1970 – “Contemporary Czech Literature”, Brown University, Providence,RI
– “Contemporary Czech Pop Music”, Brown University, Providence, RI
– “Contemporary Czech Novel”, The University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
– “Contemporary Czech Cinema”, The University of Alberta, Edmonton,AB
1971 – “State and Culture in Czechoslovakia”, University of Toronto,Toronto, ON, April 24
– “Czech Literature and Film”, University of Toronto, Hart House, February 23
– “State and Culture in Czechoslovakia”, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, March 2
– “The New Wave in Czech Cinema”, SUNY at Binghamton, NY, April 16
1972 – “Modern Czech Novel”, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, February
– “Some Comments on ?Contemporary Tendencies in East European Cinema? by Drahomíra Liehm”. Conference on the Cultural Scene in the Soviet Union and East Europe, McMaster University, Hamil ton, ON, October 28. Printed in Proceedings of…
1973 – “American Literature in Czechoslovakia after W.W.ü”, University of Indiana, Bloomington, IN, Februa ry 12
– “The Past and Present of Czechoslovak Literature in Canada”, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, September 27
– “The Situation of Czech and Slovak Literatures Today”, Plenary Session of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science in America, Toronto, ON, November 17
1974 – “1968: Reform, Revolution or Counter-Revolution?”, Yale University, March 13
– “A Discovery in Capek”, Fourth National Convention of the Popular Culture Association of Ameri ca, Milwaukee,WI,May 2-4
– “The Normalized Cinema”, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, November
1975 – “How Do We Kill Our Writers?”, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,BC, March 21
1977 – “A Sort of Tribute to G.K.C.” York University, Toronto. The Chesterton Society Conference, January 28
– “The Normalization of Talent”, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, February
– “East European Cinema”, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St.John’s, NF, March 4
– “Highlights of Post-1968 Czech Fiction”, Symposium on Contemporary Slavic Literatures, Universi ty of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, April 14
– “Charter 77: A Personal View”, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, April 19
– “Modern Czech Cinema”, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, November 5
– “The Dissident Writer”, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy, December 4
1978 – “Some Notes Towards a Psychopathology of Contemporary Czech Fiction”, International Conference on Fiction and Drama in Eastern Europe, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, March 31
1979 – “The Film Art of a Czech Emigré: The Work of Miloš Forman”,Conference on Aspects of East European Experience in America. The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, May 4
– “The East European Emigré as Writer”, Conference on Aspects of the East European Experience in America. The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, May 5
1980 – “Literature in Exile”, The AAASS Convention, Philadelphia,PA, November 7th
1981 – “American Motives in Contemporary Czech Literature: The Work of Bohumil Hrabal”, Cross Currents, A Festival of Arts and Humanities, Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Mi chigan, Ann Arbor,MI, March 24
1982 – “American Motives in the Work of Bohumil Hrabal”, Convention of the North-East Modern Language Association at Hunter College-CUNY, April 4
– “Czech Fiction: The Fruitful Tradition”, Department of Russian, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Ap ril 20
– “Why the Harlequin?”, Conference of the Canadian Learned Societies, Ottawa, June 7
– “Contemporary Czech Theatre”, The School of Drama, University of New South Wales, Sydney, July 28
– “Contemporary Czech Cinema”, Department of General Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney, July 28
– “Socialist Realism in Czech Theatre”, Department of English, Monash University, Melbourne, Au gust 4
– “Some Observations on the Intricacies of Adapting Fiction for the Screen”. Lecture at the Annual Se- minar of the English Association of McMaster University on “Canadian Fiction and the Art of Film”, Hamilton, ON, November 4
1983 – “The State of Literature in Czechoslovakia”, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS February 10
– “The History of Closely Watched Trains”, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, March 3
– “Contemporary Czech Cinema”, Centre for the Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, March 4
– “Czech Drama in the Fifties and Sixties”, Centre for the Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, March 4
– “Franz Kafka, Jazz, The Antisemitic Reader and Other Marginal Matters”, Kafka Symposium, Uni versity of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, March 7
1984 – “Freedom as Comprehended Necessity”, Kenyon College, January 25
– “The Exiled Writer and Christian Principles”, University of St.Jerome’s College, Waterloo, ON, Fe bruary 8
– “The Unpopular Popular Literature”, Keynote Address at the Fourteenth Annual Convention of the Popular Culture Association, Toronto, ON, March 30
– “Some Problems of the Ethnic Writer in Canada”, Keynote Address to the Conference on Literature and Ethnicity, Ottawa, ON, May 5
– Roundtable on Censorship, Midwest Slavic Conference, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, May 4
– “Czech Film Today and in the Past”, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, May 19
– “Contemporary Czech Film”,The Martin Walsh Lecture, University of Toronto, June 7
– “Censorship in Czechoslovakia”, They Shoot Writers, Don’t They: Amnesty International Conferen ce,ICA,London,June 6
– “Jazz in Czechoslovakia”, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Ottawa, ON, July 8
– “The Affair of the Jazz Section of the Czech Musician’s Union and Related Matters”, Cornell Univer sity, Ithaca,NY, October 4
– “Czech Literature Today”, University of Texas, Austin, TX, October 11
1985 – “Jaroslav Seifert, the First Czech Nobel Laureate”, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, January 2O
– “Post-Marxist Central Europe: The Struggle for Cultural Survival”. Panel discussion (Czeslav Milosz, Josip Brodsky, Stanislaw Baranczak, Josef Škvorecký), paper: “Czech Literature Since 1945”. The University of Michigan, February 8
– “The Holocaust of the Czech Cinema”, Davidson College, NC, February 18
– “The Czechoslovak Government’s Witchhunt Against Rock in 1983-84”, Indiana University of Penn sylvania, February 19
– “The Holocaust of the Czech Cinema”, The Indiana University of Pennsylvania, February 20
– “The Unpopular Popular Literature in Czechoslovakia”, The Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Fe bruary 20
– “Czech Literature After the Soviet Invasion of 1968”, The Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Febru ary 20
– “Popular Culture in Soviet-Dominated Czechoslovakia”, Wright State University, Dayton, OH, Fe bruary 22
– “The Government’s Fight Against the Free Development of Culture in Czechoslovakia”. Panel Dis cussion, University of Detroit, February 23
– “Czech Literature After the Soviet Invasion”, The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America, Detroit, MI, February 23
– “The Holocaust of the Czech Cinema”, Northwestern University, Ewanston, IL, February 24
– “Literature and the Censor in Czechoslovakia”, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, February 26
– “The Czechoslovak Government’s Witchhunt Against Rock Music 1983-84”, Tennessee Technologi- cal University, TN,February 27
– “Czech Literature After the Soviet Invasion of 1968”, Tennessee Technological University, TN, Fe bruary 28
– “Human Rights Violations Against Czech Writers”, The Helsinki Accord Conference, Ottawa, ON, May 17
– “The Case of Jaroslav Seifert”, The Canadian Learned Societies Conference, Montréal, PQ, June 3
– “Writing to Further Understanding and Communication in the Modern World”, October International Meeting of Writers, Beograd, Yugoslavia, October 22
1986 – “The Big Insult”, Conference on Central Europe, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, January 21
– “Fingerprints – a Canadian Detective Stories Anthology”, Law School, University of Toronto Semi nar, January 14
– “How I Wrote Dvorák In Love”, Czech Music in Texas: A Sesquicentennial Symposium”,Texas A&M University, Brian, November
1988 – “Czech Fiction Since the Ambush”, The Wheatland International Conference on Literature, Lisbon, Por tugal, May 4
1990 – “Reception: An Authorial Experience”, The 4th World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, Harrogate, England, 21 July
1993 – “…in the lonesome October”, the Humber College Creative
Writing Workshop, Humber College, Toronto
1997 – “American Motifs in the Works of Bohumil Hrabal”, Collegium Budapest, Budapest, June 5.


Miss Rosie: Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1986. A selection of fictitious letters by a Czech housemaid in Chicago, written by Bartoš Bittner and printed in the humorous weekly Šotek in Chicago in the 1890’s. With an Introduction by the Editor. Made into a Radio Play by Czech Radio, 1996.

Swing na malém meste (Swing in a Small Town) with Boris Medílek, eds. (Ivo Železný, 2002) – Story of the amateur swingband Orchestr Miloslava Zachovala under the nazis.


These were regular monthly talks on books published in the U.S.A., in Canada and in Great Britain. They span the years 1973-1990

1. Greene: A Sort of Life
2. Hersey: Conspiracy
3. Roth: The Breast
4. Levin: The Stepford Wives
5. Moore: Catholics
6. Styron: The Confession of Nat Turner
7. Greene: The Virtue of Disloyalty
8. Shaw: Evening in Byzantium
9. Ginsberg: The Fall of America
10. Amis: Girl 20
11. Hellman: Pentimento
12. Greene: The Honorary Consul
13. Stout: Please, Pass the Guilt
14. Malamud: Rembrandt’s Hat
15. In Memoriam Harold Sonny Ladoo
16. MacInnes: The Snare of the Hunter
17. Carben: The Diary of a Catholic Bishop
18. Fogel-Engerman: Time on the Cross
19. Buber-Neumann: Mistress to Kafka
20. Mencken: The American Language
21. In Memoriam Joseph Conrad
22. Forster: Two Cheers for Democracy
23. Swados: Celebration
24. Rosenberg: The Seventh Hero
25. Science Fiction and H.P.Lovecraft
26. Koestler: The Roots of Coincidence
27. Himes: For Love of Imabelle
28. Hammett: The Continental Op
29. Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Today
30. Cooper: The Crater and The Ways of the Hour
31. Percy: The Moviegoer
32. Newman: The Russian Novel
33. Christie: Curtain
34. Heller: Something Happened
35. Murray: Train Whistle Guitar
36. Berger: Sneaky People
37. Doctorow: Ragtime
38. Stout: A Family Affair
39. Feuer: Ideology and the Ideologists
40. Bellow: Humboldt’s Gift
41. Liehm: The Miloš Forman Stories
42. Feuer: Marx and the Intellectuals
43. Karbusický: Lied in der Ideologie – Ideologie im Lied
44. MacShane: The Life of Raymond Chandler
45. Walsh: Poe the Detective
46. Dardis: Some Time in the Sun
47. Hellman: Scoundrel Time
48. Wilson: The Craft of the Novel
49. Bellow: To Jerusalem and Back
50. Goloner-Turner: The Making of King Kong
51. How Do Czechs Speak in America?
52. Christie: Sleeping Murder
53. Reynolds: Hemingway’s First War
54. Enfield: Leni Riefenstahl
55. Tracing Poe in Charlottesville
56. Barzun: The Use and Abuse of Art
57. In Memoriam James Jones
58. Wright: American Hunger
59. Mark Twain in Bohemia: Marienbad, a Health Factory
60. T.G.Masaryk on American Literature
61. Porter: The Never-Ending Wrong
62. Stoppard: Professional Foul
63. The Venice Biennale
64. Trains: Remarkable Names of Real People
65. Carpenter: A Loving Gentleman
66. Engel: Bear
67. Gornick: The Romance of American Communism
68. Greene: The Human Factor
69. Rudolph: Wilma
70. Christie: Autobiography
71. Cerf: At Random
72. Kazin: New York Jew
73. McFadden: The Serial
74. Jastrow: God and the Astronomers
75. Burnham: The Machiavellians
76. American University Libraries
77. Burgess: 1985
78. Lévy: Barbarism with a Human Face
79. Yanov: The Russian New Right
80. Stoppard: Night and Day
81. American Writers and the Hitler-Stalin Pact:4Oth Anniversary
82. Malamud: Dubin’s Lives
83. Updike: The Coup
84. Heller: Good as Gold
85. Styron: Sophie’s Choice
86. Roth: The Ghost Writer
87. Suvin: Metamorphoses of Science Fiction
88. Shostakovich: Testimony
89. Apocalypse Now and its Source: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
90. Dakota Czechs
91. Le Carré: Smiley’s People
92. Greene: Doctor Fisher of Geneva or the Bomb Party
93. Stankiewitz: The Silenced Theatre: Czech Playwrights Without a Stage
94. Solzhenitsin: The Oak and the Calf
95. Kolakowski: Main Currents in Marxism
96. Greene: Ways of Escape
97. Amis: Russian Hide and Seek
98. Amiel: Confessions
99. Alter: The American Political Novel
100. Brackman: A Delicate Arrangement
101. Feifer: Moscow Farewell
102. Novák: Bohemian Heaven – an Off-Broadway Production
103. Klimesh: Spillville, a Czech-American Farming Village
104. Lyon: Bertolt Brecht in America
105. Milosz: Native Realm
106. Cermák: Dejiny obcanské války s pripojením zkušeností ceských vojínu
107. Weis : The Assassination of Mozart
108. Helping Czech Books in the West
109. Miller: The Kaleidoscopic Lens: How Hollywood Views Ethnic Groups
110. Gordon: The Company of Women
111. Galbraith: Life in Our Times
112. Morava: Exilová léta K.H.Borovského
113. Koestler: Janus
114. Hollander: Political Pilgrims
115. Bellow: Dean’s December
116. Winks: Modus Operandi
117. Littel: The Amateur
118. Ludlum: The Parsifal Mosaic
119. Greene: Monsignor Quixote
120. Feuer: The Case of the “Darwin-Marx” Letter
121. Stanley: The New Evolutionary Timetable
122. Sennett: The Frog Who Dared To Croak
123. Jubilee Talk: Tenth Anniversary of J.Š. on the Voice of America: Czechoslovak Jazzmen-and-Women in American Jazz
124. Levy: Ezra Pound: The Voice of Silence
125. Kristol: Two Cheers for Capitalism
126. Starr: Red and Hot: the Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union 1917-1980
127. Larsen (ed.). Who Were the Fascists? and Hamilton: Who Voted for Hitler?
128. Czech Bands of the Midwest
129. Lem: His Master’s Voice
130. Epstein: How Good Is Gabriel Garcia Marquéz?
131. Fiedler: What Was Literature?
132. Mailer: Ancient Evenings
133. Johnson: Modern Times
134. Feuer: The Case of the Revolutionist’s Daughter
135. Kiernen: American Writing Since 1945
136. Orwell 1984 – George Orwell’s Year
137. Dovlatov: The Compromise
138. Bradbury: Rates of Exchange
139. Allain: The Other Man
140. Brink: Writing in a State of Siege
141. Johnson: Marxism vs. the Jews
142. Great Books We Never Finished Reading
143. Land: The Art of Literary Mayhem
144. Aksyonov: The Burn
145. Orwell in the U.S.S.R.
146. Miller: The Archbishop’s Ceiling
147. Heller: Report on the Shroud of Turin
148. Nineteenth Century Czech Stories about the American Civil War
149. Heym: The Wandering Jew
150. Jaroslav Seifert, Nobel Laureate
151. Cesko-americká literature o americké obcanské válce
152. Greene: The Tenth Man
153. Ginsberg: Collected Poems 1947-1980
154. Navrátilová: Martina
155. Roth: Zuckerman Bound
156. Alexeyeva: Soviet Dissent, Shanor: Behind the Lines, Bloch and Reddaway: Soviet Psychiatric Abuse
157. Lessing: The Good Terrorist
158. Amis: Stanley and the Women
159. Shaara: The Killer Angels
160. The Twentieth International October Meeting of Writers in Belgrade
161. East vs.West in Lithuania: Rising Tempers at a Writers’
162. Hames: The Czechoslovak New Wave
163. Zwerin: La Tristesse de Saint Louis; Feigin: Russian Jazz-New Identity
164. Grossman: Life and Fate
165. Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale
166. Podhoretz: The Bloody Crossroads
167. Clark: The Soviet Novel
168. Conquest: The Harvest of Sorrow
169. Roth: Counterlife
170. Symposium of Czech Music in Texas
171. Oates: The World’s Worst Critics
172. The Toronto Production of a Jazz Opera Based on The Bass Saxophone
173. Gluck: George Lukács and His Generation
174. Feuer: Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind
175. Amis: The Old Devils
176. Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind
177. K-231
178. Harászti: The Velvet Prison
179. Moore: The Color of Blood
180. Wolfe: The Bonfire of Vanities
181. Collier: Duke Ellington
182. The Wheatland Conference
183. Dziak: Chekhisty
184. Xianliang: Half of Man Is Woman
185. Vassiltchikov: The Berlin Diaries
186. Iannone: Feminism vs. Literature
187. Greene: The Captain and the Enemy
188. Andreyev: Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement
189. Roth: The Facts
190. Johnson: Intellectuals I.
191. Johnson: Intellectuals ü.
192. Johnson: Intellectuals üI.
193. Duberman: Paul Robeson
194. Bellow: Theft
195. Schama: Citizens
196. Read: A Season in the West
197. Wilson-Ferris (eds.): Encyclopedia of Southern Culture
198. Chandler-Parker: Poodle Springs
199. Wolfe: Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast
200. 200th Talk
201. Response to Wolfe’s “Stalking a Billion-Footed Beast”
202. Miller: Timebends
203. Weil: Life With a Star
204. Going Home
205. Kaplan: Report on the Murder of the General Secretary
206. Chalton-Mark (eds.): The Writer’s Home Companion
207. Henderson (ed.): Rotten Reviews
208. Ash: The Magic Lantern
209. Amis: The Folks that Live on the Hill
210. Final Talk


1. Volume One. Contains:
The Swell Season, The Cowards, The End of the Nylon Age. Odeon Publishers, 1991

2. Volume Two. Contains:
The Inferiority Complex, Vague Contours, The Age of Nylon, Three Tales and an Epilogue of Líza and the Young Werther, The Tenor Saxophonist’s Stories, The End of Bull Mácha, Pink Champagne, Song of the Forgotten Years, The Bass Saxophone. Ivo Železný, Publisher, 1994

3. Volume Three. Contains:
The New Canterbury Tales, The Menorah, The Legend of Emöke, Ivo Železný, 1996

4. Volume Four. Contains:
Eva Was Naked, How I Learned German and Later English, The Beginning of My Literary Career, The Three Young Men in a Fiery Furnace,A Babylonian Story, The Viewer in the February Night, The Road to the Studios, A Literary Bargain, Sam Writes a Review, Conversations with Oktiabrina, Even Old Egyptians, The Smile of a Pennsylvania Night, A Lecture on an Ocean Liner, Oh, My Papa!,
Feminine Mystique, Headed for the Blues. Ivo Železný, 1996.

5. Volume Five. Contains:
Miss Silver’s Past. Ivo Železný, 1996.

6. Volume Six. Contains:
Two Murders in My Double-Life. Ivo Železný, 1996

7. Volume Seven. Contains:
The Story of the Unsuccessful Tenor Saxophonist; Samožerbuch (The Autofestschrift). Ivo Železný, 1997.

8. Volume Eight. Contains:
The Miracle Game. Ivo Železný, 1997.

9. Volume Nine. Contains:
Does Realism Threaten the Detective Story?; Ideas of a Detective Stories Reader;
A Discovery in Capek; Poe, or an Adventure in the Literary Science. Ivo Železný, 1998.

10. Volume Ten. Contains:
The Republic of Whores (Tankový prapor). Ivo Železný, 1998.

11. Volume Eleven.Contains:
An Inexplicable Story or The Narraive of Questus Firmus Siculus. Ivo Železný, 1998

12. Volume Twelve. Contains
…there’s no Remedy for this Pain (…na tuhle bolest nejsou prášky) A selection of my poetry, edited by Michael Pribán. Ivo Železný, 1999.

13. Volume Thirteen. Contains:
A Brief Encounter, With Murder (Krátké setkání, s vraždou). Co-athor: Zdena Salivarová. Ivo Železný,1999

14. Volume Fourteen. Contains:
The Strange Gentleman from Providence and Other Essays (Podivný pán z Providence a jiné eseje):
They – That Is Us (see p.9 – essys on American Literature), The Relativity of World-Fame (on Karel
Polácek), Working Overtime(see p.10, essays on establihsment Czech Literature during post-Soviet-in vasion of Czechoslovakia) 1vo Železný, 1999.
15. Volume Fifteen. Contains:
The Engineer of Human Souls, Part I. Ivo Železný, 2000.

16. Volume Sixteen. Contains:
The Engineer of Human Souls, Part ü. Ivo Železný, 2000.

17. Volume Seventeen. Contains:
Encounter After Many Years, With Murder. Co-author Zdena Salivarová.Ivo Železný, 2001.

18. Volume Eighteen. Cointains:
A Tall Tale About America, and a Small about Canada. Ivo Železný, 2001
19. Volume Nineteen. Contains:
Encounter at the End of an Era, With Murder. Co-author Zdena Salivarová.Ivo Železný, 2001)


In English
1. Sam Solecki, Prague Blues: The Fiction of Josef Škvorecký (ECW Press, Toronto, 1990)

2. Paul I. Trensky, The Fiction of Josef Škvorecký (St.Martin?s Press, New York, 1991)

3. Sam Solecki (Ed.), The Achievement of Josef Škvorecký (University of Toronto Press, 1994)

4. Sam Solecki, Josef Škvorecký and His Works (ECW Press, Toronto, 1997)

5. HOMAGE TO JOSEF ŠKVORECKÝ, 1980 Neustadt Prize Laureate. (In World Literature Today, Autumn 1980, Norman, Oklahoma)

6. JOSEF ŠKVORECKÝ (In The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1997,Normal, IL)

7. Edward L. Galligan, The Truth of Uncertainty(University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1998)

In Czech

1. Josef Škvorecký, Zdena Salivarová, Samožerbuch (Panorama, Praha, 1991)

2. Pavel Trenský, Josef Škvorecký (H & H, Praha, 1995]

3. Premysl Blažícek, Škvoreckého “Zbabelci”(Edice Oikúmené, Praha 1992)

4. Milan Jungmann, O Josefu Škvoreckém (Spolecnost Josefa Škvoreckého, 1993)

5. Helena Kosková, Hledání ztracené generace (H&H, 1996)

6. Karel Hvíždala, Opustíš-li mne, nezahyneš (Ivo Železný, Praha 1993. Doslov Milan Kundera)

7. Kvetoslav Chvatík, Melancholie a vzdor (Ceskoslovenský spisovatel, 1992)

8. Kvetoslav Chvatík, Pohledy na ceskou literaturu z ptací perspektivy (Pražská imaginace, 1991

9. Michal Schonberg, Pruzkum o prátelství, odvaze a intelektuálním disentu a (snad už) presvedcivá tecka za otázkou, kdo preložil Prezydenta Krokadýlu (In Kritická príloha Revolver Revue c. 11)

10. Ilja Matouš, Bibliografie Josefa Škvoreckého in 4 Volumes (Spolecnost Josefa Škvoreckého, 1990-1994)

11. CD-ROM, Josef Škvorecký, život a dílo (Spolecnost Josefa Škvoreckého, The Josef Škvorecký Society, 1999)

Excerpt from The Bass Saxophone

Excerpt from The Bass Saxophone (Washington Square Press 1985)

The wallpaper was old and stained, but faded pictures of doves still showed against the beige background. I put my ear to their delicate breasts. The voice came close; it was repeating a nasty, unintelligible litany of anger and irritation, of imperious, spit-polished, boot-shod hysterics. I recognized it. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I knew who it was talking behind the gentle doves in the next, equally beige hotel room: it was Horst Hermann Kühl: it was the same voice that screeching along ahead of him had penetrated all the way up the iron staircase to the roof of the Sokol Hall, where you had to climb down another iron staircase to reach the projection booth of the movie house (I wasn’t there at the time, but Mack, who operated the projector, told me about it). A pair of black boots had appeared on the iron rungs, the voice lashing in ahead of them. “What is this supposed to mean?” he had rasped like a poisonous firecracker. “This is a provocation!” Such was the terrific power of that dark voice (not the voice of Horst Hermann Kühl, but the black singer’s – they even said it was Ella Fitzgerald, I didn’t know, they were old records, Brunswick, before the era of stars, and the label said nothing but “Chick Webb and his Orchestra with Vocal Chorus”; there was a short sobbing saxophone solo – they said that was Coleman Hawkins – and they said the other was Ella Fitzgerald, that voice) it had forced Horst Hermann Kühl, omnipotent within the wartime world of Kostelec, to leave the seat in which he was enjoying the intermission between the newsreel and the film starring Christine Söderbaum or maybe it was Heidemarie Hathayer; when he heard black Ella (“I’ve got a guy. He don’t dress me in sable, He looks nothing like Gable, But he’s mine”) he flew out of his comfortable seat and squealing like a rutting male mouse (it all took on the dimensions of the microworld of Kostelec) he tore down the aisle between the seats to the lobby and up the steps and up the iron staircase to the roof and down the iron ladder (more ladder than staircase) to the projection booth and, still squealing, confiscated the record and took it away with him. Mack told on me; yes, he did; what was he supposed to do? He could have said he didn’t know where the Chick Webb record came from, he could have played stupid, that tried and tested Czech prescription; sometimes they fell for it; they almost loved stupid Schweiks – in contrast, they themselves glowed with vociferous wisdom. But it didn’t occur to Mack, so he told on me.

I had committed a crime; it seems unbelievable today what could (can) be a crime: a Beatles haircut in Indonesia (that’s today, and that kind of power is always a festering effusion of weakness) – our ducktail haircuts were also once a crime just like the locks on the heads of youths that shock syphilitic waiters so much today; and the fact that my father had been seen conversing with Mr. Kollitschoner; and the conviction that Drosophila flies are suitable for biological experiments; the use of slang; a joke about the president’s wife; faith in the miraculous power of paintings and statues; a lack of faith in the miraculous power of paintings and statues; and everywhere the eyes, the spying eyes of the Kanas and the Vladykas; and the ears; and the little reports; and the file cards, keypunched, cybernetic, apparently the first things of all to be cyberneticized. I used to draw advertising slides for the movie house; I would carry them down the iron ladder to the projection booth and because beauty-inspired joy, pleasure-inspired pleasure is diminished by solitude, it had occurred to me: I had those rare records at home, I always used to listen to them before I went to sleep, on an old wind-up phonograph next to my bed: “Doctor Blues,” “St. James Infirmary,” “Blues in the Night,” “Sweet Sue,” the Boswell Sisters, “Mood Indigo,” “Jump, Jack, Jump”; and so one day in the projection booth when the electric phonograph was spinning and amplifying a native polka called “Hey, Ma, Who Are You Saving Your Daughter For?” the idea had possessed me: I made my decision. In spite of the fact that they were so rare, I had brought them to the booth (I had labeled the vocal pieces with paper tape so Mack wouldn’t make a mistake and put one on by accident) and while Herr Regierungskommissar and the others were awaiting the beginning of the film “Quax, der Bruchpilot,” I was awaiting the first beats of Webb’s drum in the foxtrot “Congo” -the annunciation, the sending down of beauty on the heads in the movie house; and when it finally came, that bliss, that splendor, I looked down through the little window and I couldn’t understand why no heads were turned, no eyes opened in amazement, that they were not suddenly quiet and that the jaws cracking wartime sour candy did not pause in their effort; the crowd murmured on in their trite crowd conversation; and then, that once, Mack made a mistake (he explained later that the label had come unstuck on that side of the record); the crowd murmured on, ignoring the smeared swinging of Chick’s saxes, and murmured on when Ella came in with her nasal twang (“I’ve got a guy, and he’s tough. He’s just a gem in the rough. But when I polish him up, I swear . . .”); only Horst Hermann Kühl stopped talking, pricked up his ears, took notice, and then cut loose with a roar (hate is unfortunately always much more observant than love, and more observant even than an insufficiency of love).

I never got that record back; I never found out what happened to it. It disappeared into his five- room apartment, which was built around an altar (yes, an altar) with a life-size portrait of that fellow on it; after the war, when we broke in there with a number of other armed musicians, the record wasn’t anywhere to be found – only the deserted man in the portrait, and someone who had got there before us had drawn a pince-nez on him and a full beard to go with the mustache, and, along with it, a ridiculously long penis hanging out of his military fly; Horst Hermann Kühl had left town in time, with all his property. Maybe he even took her with him, black Ella, maybe he broke her in a fit of anger, threw her into the ash can. Nothing happened to me; my father set the cogs on the wheels of contacts moving, influence, intercession, advocates, middlemen for bribes, and Kühl simmered down. We belonged among the important people in town (although later, toward the end of the war, they locked my father up for that very reason; in fact he was locked up a number of times for that reason, a position like that is always relative: it can often save you and apparently equally often destroy you, you are always an object of hate, always in the public eye, you can get away with what the populace can’t and you can’t get away with what the populace can); that’s why nothing happened to me and the provocation (arousing public indignation with black Ella’s singing in English, while the German citizens of Kostelec were waiting for the romance of Christine Söderbaum) was forgotten. Kühl was silent about it, a silence apparently bought with a bottle of Meinl’s rum or something similar (the way payment used to be made in antiquity with cattle, so it is made in the modern world with alcohol: pecunia-alcunia).

So I can safely say that I recognized the voice of Horst Hermann Kühl. It was easy, in fact; I had never heard him talk – he was either silent or he was yelling. Now he was yelling, behind the wall covered with beige wallpaper with its faded design of silver doves, and I pressed my ear up against their delicate breasts. What he was yelling was unintelligible. In the passionate beating of his words, like the beating of a dove’s heart, I caught fragments that made no sense: “. . . noch nicht so altan der Ostfront gibt’s keine Entschuldigung . . . jeder Deutsche . . . heute ein Soldat. . . . . . . not so old yet . . . on the Eastern Front there are no excuses . . . every German . . . today a soldier . . .” His German was entirely different from that of the mournful Feldwebel, inscribed in Gothic script in a blue notebook (but there are two tongues within every language: not class tongues, nor does the difference between them have anything to do with the difference between literate language and vulgar slang – the dividing line cuts somewhere down the middle of both); Kühl had mastered only one tongue, like Werner, the School Inspector, who tore past the hall patrol like a cannonball (Lexa, our fourth tenor sax, had an encounter with him once and was the recipient of unwelcome praise; Werner liked opposition), burst into our classroom and started to yell at the frail consumptive professor of German; the professor listened with his head on one side, calmly, with Christian equanimity, perhaps resigned to fate. Werner shouted, ranted and raved, spewing ugly words like Kerl, Dreck, Schwein, and Scheisse; we didn’t understand him but we knew he certainly wasn’t praising the professor; the professor lis- tened; when the inspector paused to take a breath, he took advantage of the moment and spoke, gently, quietly but clearly, with dignity, almost reverently. “I teach Goethe’s German, Herr Inspektor,” he said. “I do not teach pig-German.” Amazingly, no apocalyptic storm arose. The Inspector fell silent, visibly deflated, turned on his heel and disappeared. The only thing that remained of him was a diabolical stink of boot polish.

“I don’t want to hear a word! I’ll be waiting for this evening,” then the voice of Horst Hermann Kühl behind the wall lapsed back into hollering incomprehensibility. Someone (behind the wall) tried to say something, but the whiplash of Kühl’s high voice silenced him. I stepped away from the doves; the dusty golden fingers of early autumn were still climbing the wallpaper, up a wardrobe with cream-colored angels with peeling golden locks, forming a canopy of stardust over the bass saxophone. The man in the bed was still asleep. His chin jutted up from the pillow like some desperate cliff. It reminded me of the chin of my dead grand- father; his chin had stuck up out of the coffin like that too, with the stubble that outlives a man, as if in derision. But this one was still alive.

And I was at an age when one doesn’t think of death. I approached the bass saxophone again. The main part of the body lay to the left, deep in its plush bed. Next to it lay the other sections: the long metal pipe with huge valves for the deepest tones, the bent lever and the little leather-covered plate on the octave valve, the conical end with the big mouthpiece.

They attracted me the way the requisites for mass attract a novice. I leaned over and lifted the body out of its plush bed. Then the second part; I put them together, I embraced the body with gentle fingers, the familiar fingering, my little finger on the ribbed G flat, the valves of the bass thunder deep down under the fingers of my right hand; I wiggled my fingers; the mechanism rattled pleasantly; I pressed down valve after valve, from B all the way to C and then B flat to B with my little finger, and in the immense hollow spaces of the bass saxophone the bubbling echo of tiny leather strokes sounded, descending the scale, like the tiny foot- steps of a minute priest in a metal sanctuary, or the drumming of little drums in metal frames, a mysterious telegram of tiny tom-toms; I could not resist, I reached for the mouthpiece, attached it, and opened the plush lid of the little compartment in the corner of the coffin; there they were, a bundle of big reeds, like the shovels bakers use to take bread out of the oven; I stuck one of the reeds in its holder, straightened the edge, and putting the mouthpiece in my mouth, moistened the reed. I didn’t play. I just stood there with the mouthpiece in my mouth, my fingers spread and embracing the immense body of the saxophone, my eyes misty; I pressed the big valves. A bass saxophone.

I had never held one in my hands before; I felt as if I were embracing a mistress (Domanin’s daughter, that mysterious lily among aquariums, or Irene, who didn’t give a damn about me; in fact I couldn’t have been happier if I had been holding Irene, or even that girl of the fish and the moon). I stood there, a little slumped, and I saw myself in the mirror of the dressing table, hunched over with the bass saxophone resting the bend of its corpus on the carpet, immersed in a sea of shimmering particles, the unreal light of a grotesque myth, like a genre painting, though certainly no such painting exists: Young Man with Bass Saxophone. Yes, Young Man with Guitar, Young Man with Pipe, Young Man with Jug, yes, young man with anything at all, but not with bass saxophone on worn carpet, young man in golden haze of afternoon sun penetrating muslin curtains, with a mute bass saxophone, the Disney-like rococo of the wardrobe in the background, and the man with his chin sticking up out of the pillow like a corpse. Just a young man with bass saxophone and sleeping man. Absurd. Yet that was the way it was.

I exhaled lightly. A little harder. I felt the reed quiver. I blew into the mouthpiece, running my fingers down the valves; what emerged from the bell like a washbasin was a cruel, beautiful, infinitely sad sound.
Maybe that’s the way dying brachiosaurs wailed. The sound filled the beige chamber with a muted desolation. A fuzzy, hybrid tone, an acoustical alloy of some nonexistent bass cello and bass oboe, but more explosive, a nerve-shattering bellow, the voice of a melancholy gorilla; just that one sorrowful tone, sad, like a bell – traurig wie eine Glocke; just that one single sound.


A revolution is usually the worst solution: From Talkin´ Moscow blues (Faber and Faber, London 1990)


In October 1981 Skvorecky participated in an international conference held in Toronto, on the subject of “The Writer and Human Rights”. The participants included Margaret Atwood, Stanislaw Bardnczak, Joseph Brodsky, Allen Ginsberg, Nadine Gordimer, Susan Sontag, Michel Tournier, and many others. Skvorecky’s speech was a disturbing reminder that “human rights” can be and have been abused by regimes of the left as well as of the right. To some left-leaning members of the audience, it was not what they had come to hear.

FRANKLY, I FEEL frustrated whenever I have to talk about revolution for the benefit of people who have never been through one. They are — if you’ll excuse the platitude — like a child who doesn’t believe that fire hurts, until he burns himself. I, my generation, my nation, have been involuntarily through two revolutions, both of them socialist: one of the right variety, one of the left. Together they destroyed my peripheral vision. When I was fourteen, we were told at school that the only way to a just and happy society led through socialist revolution. Capitalism was bad, liberalism a fraud, democracy bunk, and parliamentarism decadent. Our then Minister of Culture and Education, the late Mr. Emanuel Moravec, taught us this, and then sent his son to fight for socialism with the Hermann Goering SS Division. The son was later hanged; the minister, to use proper revolutionary language, liquidated himself with the aid of a gun.

When I was twenty-one, we were told at Charles University that the only way to a just and happy society led through socialist revolution. Capitalism was bad, liberalism a fraud, democracy bunk, and parliamentarism decadent. Our then professor of philosophy, the late Mr. Arnost Kolman, taught us this, and then gave his half-Russian daughter in marriage to a Czech Communist who fought for socialism with Alexander Dubcek. Later he fled to Sweden. Professor Kolman, one of the very last surviving original Bolsheviks of 1917 and a close friend of Lenin, died in 1980, also in Sweden. Before his death, he returned his Party card to Brezhnev and declared that the Soviet Union had betrayed the socialist revolution. In 1981 I am told by various people who suffer from Adlerian and Rankian complexes that the only way to a just and happy society leads through socialist revolution. Capitalism is bad, liberalism a fraud, democracy bunk, and parliamentarism decadent. Dialectically, all this makes me suspect that capitalism is probably good, liberalism may be right, democracy is the closest approximation to the truth, and parliamentarism a vigorous gentleman in good health, filled with the wisdom of ripe old age.

There have been quite a few violent revolutions in our century, most of them Communist, some Fascist, and some nationalistic and religious. The final word on all of them comes from the pen of Joseph Conrad, who in 1911 wrote this in his novel Under Western Eyes: a real revolution — not a simple dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions — in a real revolution the best characters do not come to the front. A vio- lent revolution falls into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards comes the turn of all the pretentious intellectual fail- ures of the time. Such are the chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement — but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims: the vic- tims of disgust, of disenchantment — often of remorse. Hopes grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured — that is the definition of revolutionary success. There have been in every revolution hearts broken by such successes.

I wonder if anything can be added to this penetrating analysis? The scenario seems to fit perfectly. Just think of the Strasser brothers, those fervent German nationalists and socialists: one of them liquidated by his own workers’ party, the other having to flee, first to capitalist Czechoslovakia, then to liberal England, while their movement passed into the hands of that typical “intellectual failure”, the unsuccessful artist named Adolf Hitler. Think of Boris Pilnyak, liquidated while those sleek and deadly scientific bureaucrats he described so well — who were perfectly willing to liquidate others to bolster their own careers — bolstered their careers, leaving a trail of human skulls behind them.

Think of Fidel Castro’s involuntary volunteers dying with a look of amazement on their faces in a foreign country where they have no right to be, liquidating its black warriors who for years had been fighting the Portuguese. Think of the German Communists who, after the Nazi Machtübernahme (the grabbing of power), fled to Moscow and then, broken-hearted, were extradited back into the hands of the Gestapo because Stalin honoured his word to Hitler; the Jews among them were designated for immediate liquidation, the non-Jews were sent to Mauthausen and Ravensbrück.

It is all an old, old story. The revolution — if you don’t mind another cliché — is fond of devouring its own children. Or, if you do mind, let me put it this way: the revolution is cannibalistic. It is estimated that violent Communist revolutions in our century have dined on about one hundred million men, women, and children. What has been gained by their sumptuous feast? Basically two things, both predicted by the so-called classics of Marxism-Leninism: the state that withered away, and the New Socialist Man.

The state withered away all right — into a kind of Mafia, a perfect police regime. Thought-crime, which most believed to be just a morbid joke by Orwell, concocted when he was already dying of tuberculosis, has become a reality in today’s “real socialism”, as the stepfathers of the Czechoslovak Communist Party have christened their own status quo. The material standards of living in these post-revolutionary police states are invariably lower, often much lower, than those of the developed Western democracies. But of course, the New Socialist Man has emerged, as announced.

Not quite as announced. Who is he? He is an intelligent creature who, sometimes in the interest of bare survival, sometimes merely to maintain his material living standards, is willing to abnegate the one quality that differentiates him from animals: his intellectual and moral awareness, his ability to think and freely express his thought. This creature has come to resemble the three little monkeys whose statuettes you see in junk shops: one covers its eyes, another its ears, the third its mouth. The New Socialist Man has thus become a new Trinity of the post-revolutionary age.

Therefore, with Albert Camus, I suspect that in the final analysis capitalist democracy is to be preferred to regimes created by violent revolutions. I must also agree with Lenin that those who, after the various gulags (and after the Grand Guignol spectacle of the Polish Communist Party exhorting the Solidarity Union to shut up or else the Polish nation will be destroyed — and guess who will destroy it), still believe in violent revolutions are indeed “useful idiots”.

In the Western world, such mentally retarded adults sometimes point out, in defence of violence, that capitalism is guilty of similar crimes. Most of these crimes, true, have occurred in the past, often in the distant past, but some are happening in our own time, especially in what is known as the Third World. But to justify crimes by arguing that others have also committed them is, to put it mildly, bad taste. To exonerate the Communist inquisition by blaming the Catholic Church for having done the same thing in the Dark Ages amounts to an admission that Communism represents a return to the Dark Ages. To accuse General Pinochet of torturing his political prisoners, and then barter your own political prisoners, fresh from psychiatric prison-clinics, for those of General Pinochet is—shall we say—a black joke.

Does all this mean that I reject any violent revolution anywhere, no matter what the circumstances are? I have seen too much despair in my time to be blind to despair. It’s just that I do not believe in two things. First, I do not think that a violent uprising born out of “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object” which “evinces a design to reduce” men “under absolute despotism” should be called a revolution; because when such a revolution later produces another “long chain of abuses and usurpation” and people rise against it, to be linguistically correct we would have to call such an uprising a “counter-revolution”. In our society, however, this term has acquired a pejorative meaning it does not deserve.

Second, I do not believe that any violent revolution in which Communists or Fascists participate can be successful, except in the Conradian sense as quoted above. Because, quite simply, I do not trust authoritarian ideologies. Every revolution with the participation of Communists or Fascists must eventually of necessity turn into a dictatorship and, more often than not, into a state nakedly ruled by the police. Neither Fascists nor Communists can live with democracy, because their ultimate goal, no matter whether they call it das Führerprinzip or the dictatorship of the proletariat, is precisely the “absolute despotism” of which Thomas Jefferson spoke. They tolerate partners in the revolutionary effort only as long as they need them to defeat the powers that be — not perhaps because all Communists and Fascists are radically evil but because they are disciplined adherents of ideologies which command them to do so, since that is what Hitler or Lenin advised. The Fascists are more honest about it: they say openly — at least the Nazis did — that democracy is nonsense. Lenin was equally frank only in his more mystical moments; otherwise the Communists use Newspeak. But as soon as they grow strong enough, they finish off democracy just as efficiently as the Fascists, and usually more so.

All this is rather abstract, however, and since individualistic Anglo-Saxons usually demand concrete, individual examples, let me offer you a few. In Canada there lives an old professor by the name of Vladimir Krajina. He teaches at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is an eminent botanist who has received high honours from the Canadian government for his work in the preservation of Canadian flora. But in World War II, he was also a most courageous anti-Nazi fighter. He operated a wireless transmitter by which the Czech underground sent vi- tal messages to London, information collected by the members of the Czech Resistance in armament factories, by “our men” in the Protectorate bureaucracy who had access to Nazi state secrets, and by Intelligence Service spies such as the notorious A-54. The Gestapo, of course, was after Professor Krajina. For several years, he had to move from one hideout to another, leaving a trail of blood behind him, of Gestapo men shot by his co-fighters, of people who hid him and were caught and shot. After the war, he became an MP for the Czech Socialist party. But his incumbency lasted for little more than two years. Immediately after the Communist coup in 1948, Professor Krajina had to go into hiding again, and he eventually fled the country.

Why? Because the Communists had never forgotten that he had warned the Czech underground against cooperating with the Communists. And he was right: he was not the only one to flee. Hundreds of other anti-Nazi fighters were forced to leave the country, and those who would not or could not ended up on the gallows, in concentration camps, or, if they were lucky, in menial jobs. Among them were many Czech RAF pilots who had distinguished themselves in the Battle of Britain and then had returned to the republic for whose democracy they had risked their lives. All this is a story since repeated in other Central and East European states. It is still being repeated in Cuba, in Vietnam, in Angola, and most recently in Nicaragua.

In a recent article in the New York Review of Books, V. S. Naipaul tells about his experiences in revolutionary Iran. He met a Communist student there who showed him snapshots of Communists being executed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and then told him about his love for Stalin: “I love him. He was one of the greatest revolutionaries…. What he did in Russia we have to do in Iran. We, too, have to do a lot of killing. A lot…. We have to kill all the bourgeoisie.” For what purpose? To create a Brezhnevite Iran, perhaps? To send tens of thousands of new customers to the Siberian Gulag? But obviously the bourgeois don’t count. They were useful when they fought the shah, as the Kadets had been in 1917 while they fought the czar. Now they are expendable. They have become “Fascists”, just like the Barcelonian anarchists denounced in the Newspeak of the Communist press decades ago in Spain, as described by Orwell in Homage to Catalonia. They have become nonpeople. James Jones once wrote, “It’s so easy to kill real people in the name of some damned ideology or other; once the killer can abstract them in his own mind into being symbols, then he needn’t feel guilty for killing them since they’re no longer human beings.” The Jews in Auschwitz, the zeks in the Gulag, the bourgeoisie in a Communist Iran. Symbols, not people. Revolutionsfutter.

When Angela Davis was in jail, a Czech socialist politician, Jiri Pelikan, a former Communist and now a member of the European Parliament for the Italian Socialist Party, approached her through an old American Communist lady and asked her whether she would sign a protest against the imprisonment of Communists in Prague. She agreed to do so, but not until she got out of jail because, she said, it might jeopardize her case. When she was released, she sent word via her secretary that she would fight for the release of political prisoners anywhere in the world except, of course, in the socialist states. Anyone sitting in a socialist jail must be against socialism, and therefore deserves to be where he is. All birds can fly. An ostrich is a bird. Therefore an ostrich can fly. So much for the professor of philosophy Angela Davis.
So much for concrete examples.

In his Notebooks, Albert Camus recorded a conversation with one of his Communist co-fighters in the French Resistance: “Listen, Tar, the real problem is this: no matter what happens, I shall always defend you against the rifles of the execution squad. But you will have to say yes to my execution.”

Evelyn Waugh, whom I confess I prefer to all other modern British writers, said in an interview with Julian Jebb, “An artist must be a reactionary. He has to stand out against the tenor of the age and not go flopping along; he must offer some little opposition.”
All I have learned about violent revolutions, from books and from personal experience, convinces me that Waugh was right.

Zdena Salivarová Biography

Zdena Salivarová biography

Writer, publisher, translator, singer, actress.

Founder and manager of the SIXTY-EIGHT PUBLISHERS Corp. in Toronto, ON, Canada (1971-1994) which Published Czech books from original manuscripts banned by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. For this she was awarded the Order of the White Lionin 1991 by Václav Havel, President of the Czechoslovak Republic.

Doctor of Letters honoris causa, University Of Toronto.

Zdena Salivarová bibliography



1. Pánská jízda (Gentlemen’s Ride) : Ceskoslovenský Spisovatel, Prague 1968.
A collection of three novellas : La Strada, Pánská jízda (Gentlemen’s Ride) and Tma ( Darkness)
Translations : 1. Germany : La Strada in the anthology Zum Beispiel Liebe (Volk und Welt Verlag, 1971)
2. U.S.A. : Darkness in Quarterly West, No.16, Spring-Summer 1983. Winner of the International Novella Contest sponsored by the University of Utah.

2 . Nebe, peklo, ráj (Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down) : Atlantis Publishers, Brno, Czech Republic. A collection of eight novellas.
Translations : U.S.A. : If Thou Shouldst Mark Iniquities (Kdybys nepravosti vážil, Hospodine) in C.J.Hribal (Ed.) : The Boundaries of Twilight (New Rivers Press, 1991)


1. Honzlová (Summer in Prague) : Sixty- Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1972; 2nd edition 1976; 3rd edition A.T.Publishers, London 1982; 4th edition Art-Servis, Prague 1990. 5th edition Academia Prague 2001
Translations : 1. U.S.A. as Summer in Prague (Harper & Row, New York, 1973)
2. Great Britain as Summer in Prague (Harvill Press, London, 1973)
3. Spain as Verano en Praga (Ayma, Barcelona, 1975 – in Castilian)
4. Spain as Estiu a Praga (Proa, Barcelona 1975 -in Catalan)

2. Hnuj zeme (Manure of the Earth) : Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto 1994; 2nd edition Ivo Železný Publisher, Prague, 1994.
Translations: 1. U.S.A. In Alexandra Buchler (ed.), Allskin and Other Tales,
Publ. By Women In Translation, Seattle. Chapter “Dear Jirka.”

3. Krátké setkání, s vraždou (Brief Encounter, Including a Murder), co-written with Josef Škvorecký, Ivo Železný, 1999.

4. Setkání po letech, s vraždou (Encounter Many Years Later, Including Murder). co-written with Josef Škvorecký, Ivo Železný, 2000.

5. Setkání na konci éry, s vraždou (Encounter at the End of an Era, Including Murder), co-written with Josef Škvorecký, Ivo Železný, 2001.


1. Nebe, peklo, ráj (Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down) : Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp., Toronto, 1976. 2nd edition, Atlantis, Brno 1991 (contains also seven
short stories). 3rd edition Academia, Prague 1991 (contains
also seven short stories).
for best Czech fiction written in exile, 1976.

Filmed by Czech Television, Prague, 1992.

Translations : 1. Canada as Ashes, Ashes All Fall Down (Larkwood Books, Toronto, 1987


1. Simenon : Bratrí Ricové (Les freres Rico) : Cs. Spisovatel, Prague, 1965

2. Léo Malet : Za Louvrem vycházelo slunce (Le Soleil nait derriere le Louvre) : Odeon Publishers, Prague, 1967 in Trikrát Nestor Burma, a collection of three novels by Léo Malet.

3. Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain Fiakr noci (Le Fiacre de Nuit) : Odeon Publishers, Prague, 1971 in Trikrát Fantomas a collection of three novels by Souvestre and Allain.


1. Osocení (The Accosed), an anthology of articles by people unjustly accused of having
Been secret police informers) Sixty-Eight Publishers, Toronto 1993. 2nd edition
Host Publishers, Brno 2000.


1. Zpráva o slavnosti a hostech (Report on the Party and the Guests) a feature film directed by Jan Nemec : “The Coquette”

2. Faráruv konec (End of a Priest) : a feature-film directed by Evald Schorm : “The Bride”


1. Revue pro Banjo (The Banjo Show) : Czechoslovak Television, 1963. A TV feature directed by Zdenek Podskalský : 2nd soprano in The Incognito Quartette.


Príbeh knihkucharky Z.S. (The Story of the Cook of Books Z.S.) : a documentary TV feature made by the NTV Company, Prague, 1993.


Martin Kristenson

(This speech was held at the Literarni Akademie´s Conference on Josef Skvorecky´s Life and Work in Náchod, Czech Republic, September 22-24, 2004.

Winter in a Swedish small town

It all began a winter’s day, seventeen years ago. I had just moved to a new town and didn´t know anyone, my girl friend had just left me, and I felt that life on the whole was rather hopeless. I was lying on my bed, reading a novel called The Swell Season by an author I hadn’t come across before, Josef Skvorecky. The story takes place in Czechoslovakia during the forties, Europe is at war, and the country is occupied by the Nazis. The leading character, Danny Smiricky, lives in a small town. He is in his late teens, plays the tenor saxophone in a jazz band, and is energetically but without much success courting every pretty girl he meets. In each chapter, Danny, with drums beating and flags flying, goes off to win the hearts of the town beauties, but it always comes to a sorry end for him, and every failure adds to his frustration: “What are you punishing me for, God? Why did you make girls in the first place, if a good Christian can’t lay a hand on them?”
Still Danny, being the born optimist, maintains his joy of living the book through, and this is what caught me; despite the dark setting, The Swell Season is a happy book. Danny’s irresistible enthusiasm appealed to me, and my despair changed into hope.

I threw myself into Skvorecky’s first novel The Cowards, also about young Danny. Here I found the lines that, in my mind, best describe Danny’s attitude to life, words that still inspire me:

And when I thought about it honestly, it was a good thing, too, that I was in love with Irena and that she was going with Zdenek and maybe I was better off just daydreaming and writing testimonials to my love. Of course it would have been nice, too, if I’d been going with her myself. Everything was nice. Absolutely everything. Actually, there wasn’t anything bad in the whole wide world.

Could youthful delight at being alive be better expressed?

I am thirty-six years younger than Josef Skvorecky, and we come from very different backgrounds. I grew up in a democracy, a country which was last at war in the beginning of the nineteenth century. To me, World War II had always been black and white newsreels with Nazi rallies, marching soldiers, and burning cities, a horrible world distant and hard to take in. Skvorecky made this part of European history come alive to me, and I can truthfully say that by reading his novels I gained a better insight into this period than I could from any other source. In The Swell Season, we see life through the eyes of a non-Jewish teenager who was too young to become a soldier. The Nazis were always present, forming a permanent threat, but there were also girls in summer dresses and Duke Ellington And His Orchestra. “The basic characteristic of such youthful jazzbands all over the world was fun, no matter how difficult the times were”, Skvorecky wrote to me referring to his story Eine Kleine Jazzmusik. “People joked, did practical jokes, did not take such things as being expelled from school tragically, for everybody knew the war would be over and would not end in Nazi victory.”

There was a passage in The Swell Season that really surprised me. One of Danny’s favourite movies was Swing it, Teacher!, a Swedish film from 1940 with singer Alice Babs. I have always loved these old, black and white films despite the fact that I wasn’t even born when they were made, and it made me particularly pleased to find that a writer from another country had seen and appreciated them. Since Skvorecky’s seventieth birthday was coming up, I decided to send him Swing it, Teacher! on video. I assumed that he hadn’t seen it since the war, and I thought that he might want to renew the acquaintance. It took me a while to find a copy, and when I finally got hold of one it lacked subtitles, but somehow I don’t think it mattered. “Alice Babsian” can be understood everywhere. This my first contact with my favourite writer resulted in a correspondence that has been going on for ten years now.

Alice Babs and the stupid fools

When jazz singer Alice Babs made her break in the early forties, she attracted a lot of attention. Many members of the clergy, parents, teachers, and other representatives of the adult world were horrified at the young singer. The “babsery”, as it quickly became known as, was considered a menace to the young minds. A leading representative of the Swedish musical industry wrote in an indignant article that Alice Babs “sounded like a hussey” and that she should “get a smacking and be put back in school”. The atmosphere was quite inflamed for a time. One vicar described the Babs cult as “foot and mouth disease to cultural life”, and one of the principal morning papers recommended Alice’s parents to send her to a reformatory school. All this excitement seems incomprehensible to anyone who have seen a Babs movie because the Babs characters were no rebels. On the contrary, she always played good-hearted, home-loving, almost submissive girls. That she was regarded as a “menace to society” must be explained by her extraordinary feeling for music and the genuine swing feeling in her voice. The adult world feared the dark sexual forces that this kind of music was supposed to unleash. The characters she played were well-behaved, but the songs told another story because they expressed all the vitality of youth, and gave hope to Swedish teenagers.

Not just Swedish teenagers. In her memoirs Alice Babs writes about the appreciation she met within Europe during the war. Sometimes she received letters, telling her what a comfort her music was to many people in the occupied countries. In 1946 she was told about a screening of Swing it, teacher! at the Lido in Prague, how the audience had cheered the scene when Alice and her swing music conquers the hearts of the school board and she escapes expulsion for singing in public bars.

Josef Skvorecky saw Swing it, teacher! at least ten times, actually a few times more than I’ve seen it myself. He writes about how Swedish jazz music reached him through Radio Stockholm, the only station which could play jazz without being jammed by the Nazis. But the Babs films did not escape censorship. When Swedish film distributors wanted to introduce A Singing Lass in Prague in 1942, it was banned by the Germans because two of Alice’s songs were in English which was strictly prohibited. To be able to show the film, the distributors engaged a Czech jazz singer, talented Inka Zemankova, to record the two songs, now with the lyrics translated into Swedish, a language she didn’t know a word of. A good example of how absurd situations occur when a totalitarian regime tries to adjust reality to fit their ideology. Unfortunately I have never heard these recordings, but in an interview Inka Zemankova said that she had received letters from Swedish fans who commended her on her “Swedish”.

It was of course very different to be a jazz fan in Czechoslovakia than being one in Sweden. Kill-joys in Sweden could make vicious attacks on Alice in the media, but they could not back up their words by force. However much they disliked jazz music, young people in Sweden could go on playing and dancing. In fact, Alice answered her critics in one of her songs (roughly translated):

If they think I’m a hussey
It’s all right with me
I don’t care about that,
The whole night
I still sing my swing

The situation was different in the occupied countries, where the bigots were in power and were able to harass and imprison any one who opposed them. There will always be bigots, but the important thing, as Josef Skvorecky illustrates in his stories, is not to give them power over our lives.

On the fly leaf to The Swell Season you can read the subtitle: A Text On The Most Important Things In Life. I think it is to the point, beautifully expressed by a writer who knows what it’s all about. The Nazis were not important, fighting them was essential, but they were not important in themselves. The sound of a bass saxophone however, all the beauty of this world, love and human relations – that is what matters.

Reading The Swell Season made me think of a scene from Chaplin’s Modern times (1936). A flag of warning falls off a passing truck. The little tramp, helpful as always, picks it up and runs after the vehicle, frenetically waving the red flag in order to catch the driver’s attention. A procession of demonstrators suddenly shows up directly behind him, and when the police attack they arrest Chaplin, mistaking him for the leader of the demonstration. It surely wasn´t Chaplin’s intention, but I think this scene is an excellent metaphor for the difference between a democracy and a totalitarian system. In a democracy, it’s your own choice if you engage in politics, like the demonstrators do in the film. In a totalitarian system, it’s almost impossible to escape politics and, like Chaplin with the red flag, you end up in a political context whether you want to or not. Everyday life is permeated by politics and every human activity becomes a matter for the state, even the most private.

Before I read The Swell Season I had never read a book that so clearly pointed out the values threatened by totalitarianism; this is what we want to defend, this is what they want to refuse us. Danny’s beloved jazz music was termed Entartete Kunst and was banned by the Nazis. It’s obvious to anyone who has lived under the oppression of both Nazis and Communists, that it is the desire to express yourself freely which constitutes the biggest threat to the totalitarian society. It is not as obvious to people like me who only have experienced democracy.

The author and his public

I have later come to understand that Skvorecky keeps in touch with many of his readers, and I am not surprised. Many of us have been inspired by the warmth and candour in his books. I don’t usually send letters and gifts to writers I admire, but with Skvorecky it felt like the natural thing to do. Something told me that the author of The Swell Season would be a person who took an interest in his public. I think keeping close relations with his circle of readers are an important part of Skvorecky’s literary activities. His texts invite you to interact. His stories are full of references to his other books, and everywhere he is nodding to the attentive reader. On the fly leaf of the first edition of The Miracle Game for example, the editor is said to be Karel Leden, i e the main character in Miss Silver’s Past. The editor of The Engineer of Human Souls, according to the fly-leaf is Jana Honzlova, his wife’s alter ego in Summer in Prague, and in the crime novel The Return of Lieutenant Boruvka the murder is committed in the same street where Skvorecky lives. I could give you many more examples, and no doubt have many references escaped me, but in this way Skvorecky forms a personal contact with his readers (reminding a little of Hitchcock’s cameos in his films). Readers respond to this openness in different ways. For instance, British saxophonist Anthony Thistlethwaite fell so desperately in love with Marie Dreslerova from Skvorecky’s novels that he not only wrote a song for her but also went to Nachod to visit the real Marie. A good friend of mine refuses to look at real life pictures of Marie and Irena because it would destroy his own images. The women of the books are so alive to him that seeing actual portraits of them would destroy his fictional romance.

I am not a scholar and I am not going to make any literary analysis of Skvorecky’s books. I just want to express how much his books mean to me. I can make one small contribution, however. A few years ago I received a thick package with my mail which turned out to be Skvorecky’s latest novel, An Inexplicable Story. It was a homage to his favourite writer Edgar Allen Poe, apparently written in a playful mood, full of references and cross references. I recognized some of them. “Professor Howard Phillips Langhorn” at the “Miskatonic University” is for example a reference to Howard Phillips Lovecraft whose horror stories I read as a teenager. The most obvious reference to me made me literally almost fall off my chair. On page 146 I found a character called Michaela Swinkels-Kristenson, and so I had become a participant in Skvorecky´s literary game and a proud footnote in Czech literary history. I know now that Michaela Swinkels is yet another of Skvorecky’s readers with whom he keeps in touch and it feels like I’ve become related to her “by literature”.

“That desperate scream of youth”

There are so many things in Skvorecky´s novels that I can relate to. It’s not only that we share the same interests, we both love swing music and Golden Age Hollywood, it’s also a state of mind which I share with Danny and many other of the characters in Skvorecky’s novels. It’s difficult to put into words, but to be brief it was the enthusiasm in many of the stories that caught me. Danny allows himself to be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by film, literature and music, and I recognize the feeling of exhilaration that jazz gives him. I also know what Skvorecky meant when he wrote about “the realm of beauty, which is – or should be – an important part of being human”, and why he used the following lines from Ezra Pound as an underlying theme in The Bass Saxophone:

What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thy lov’st well is thy true heritage

As a boy, Skvorecky learnt English all by himself, not to impress his teachers, but to be able to write a fan letter to his idol Judy Garland. In The Miracle Game, Danny Smiricky visits Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, and in a sentimental gesture puts his finger into the impression of Judy’s shoe. Thirty years later, I found myself doing the same thing, literally going in the footsteps of two of my favourites at the same time. You probably have to feel “that desperate scream of youth” within you to be able to understand the need for this kind of gestures.
“To me literature is for ever blowing a horn”, Skvorecky once wrote. The music coming from his horn expresses both joy at being alive and sadness about the imperfections of life, as well as wonder at the world with “its uncertain fevers and secret journeys” to quote a Swedish poet.

“A writer’s job is to tell the truth” – Skvorecky has always lived by Hemingway’s motto, and that is why his novels are so individual and so universal at the same time. What does it matter that Skvorecky and I are thirty-six years and an ocean apart? Great literature bridge over time and space. Why do so many of Skvorecky´s readers find it perfectly natural to write him letters, why do they travel to his hometown in search of Marie and Irena? I think it is because Skvorecky is just the kind of writer described by George Orwell in the following lines:

… you feel the peculiar relief that comes not so much from understanding as from being understood. ‘He knows all about me’, you feel; ‘he wrote this specially for me.’ It is as though you could hear a voice speaking to you /…/ with no humbug in it, no moral purpose, merely an implicit assumption that we are all alike.”

Vsecko nejlepsi k narozeninam, Josef!

Martin Kristenson

(Translated to English from Swedish by Agneta Kristenson)

Excerpt from “Summer in Prague” (Harper & Row, New York, 1973)

Excerpt from “Summer in Prague” (Harper & Row, New York, 1973)

I liked copying the bass parts best. They usually use a single note for a whole bar, sometimes one for three, and a shortened version of the text. The sopranos are always the worst. Every composer assigns them the chatter-box role, with four times as many words as the original text. The sopranos make as much work as the building of Socialism, all talk and no meat. I had to write legibly so that even the illiterates could figure it out. I’m not trying to be snide or anything, either. It’s just a fact that some of our people can barely read. They come from the heart of the folk, that is from the country, and turn into performing artists overnight. Most of them are all right, but some of them let it go to their heads and begin to put on the sort of airs formerly assumed by servant girls suddenly transformed into grand ladies. Needless to say these are the hardest to stomach. Of these, Ruzena Holenkova was surely at the top of the list. From the sound of her voice everyone would have had to love her immediately—she had a soprano like cream being poured from pitcher to pitcher. But that, unfortunately, was one of God’s little slip-ups. Like giving a soul to a whiskbroom. For other than that, Holenkova was totally incapable of learning to read music; C Major, A Minor, it was all the same to her. God knows how many years now she’d been fruitlessly trying to get a High School diploma at the Workers’ Night School. When I joined the chorus a diploma was no asset, in fact, quite the contrary; but suddenly it became quite the rage. Somebody gave a signal and they all began drilling in unison: A squared B squared, the same way they carried on before with Scipacev and Songs of Ancient China. Not that any of it sank in. Now they pored over all sorts of Review Books, studying excerpts of excerpts, compressing three years into one. They reminded me of instant-pickles. They wanted education like a hole in the head—not a drop of thirst for learning. Not that I had gone to High School to assuage acute gnawings of an under-nourished brain either. Like them I had studied to get a diploma, you won’t get anywhere without a diploma, that’s what I always heard at home. They were suddenly seized with fear of what the future might hold when this cushy job came to an end, when the Chorus began weeding out older members – in any event a diploma is a good thing to have, if only to raise one’s consciousness for a little while. But even that brief moment of bliss eluded Holenkova. She simply didn’t follow, A squared B squared, and she won’t understand what a pronoun is to her dying day. But she did have a remarkable voice and the acting ability to go with it. A great talent.

In addition to these educationary spasms somebody in the Chorus administration had the brainwave that the Chorus needed education along the lines of dramatic expression as well. The singers didn’t know what expressions to wear on stage and sang optimistic songs as if they were holding a wake. Nobody had ever succeeded in eliciting a consistently appropriate smile from the entire chorus. Vandracek smiled incessantly, even during serious songs about manual labour, jiggling his head all the while; Chramosta kept grinning from ear to ear but from a distance it looked like he was crying. They once tried to solve this problem by offering bonuses for facial expressions. Then everybody smiled like mad for the extra money but the joyous songs of celebration continued to sound insipid and uniform. So they decided to bring in a professional actor from the theatre to give us some coaching.
‘I am yclept Vaclav Sourek,’ declaimed the famous actor. None of us had ever heard of him. Probably some kind of comedian. We were sure to have some fun with him, after that promising introduction.
And so we did.
‘Let us commence with facial miming, that’s what you need most. Make your face express sorrow. How about you over there, Comrade?’
He pointed to Holenkova. She expressed it to perfection. ‘Excellent. Now you, Comrade.’
Chramosta rolled his eyes, strained until his face was red and looked as if he’d just swallowed Little Red Riding Hood. Everybody laughed.
‘That won’t do at all, Comrades. Let us get some assistance from the text. What are you working on now?’ ‘Dear Tovarish Stalin,’ spoke up the former object of his praise,
‘Good. All of you sing it for me.’
We launched into the song of the Collective Farm workers who invite Comrade Stalin to their farm for a rest during which time he might see how well they run their Collective— the highest of all possible rewards.
‘Excellent. The text is practically tailor-made for our purposes. What an enormous range it contains for the expression of love, devotion, and heart-felt emotion! We’ll add the disappointment later. Please, Comrade, sing it again and concentrate on expressing love and devotion.’

Ruzena Holenkova began to sing. She had it all in her voice anyhow, she didn’t even have to try, but what she did with her face deserved a state medal. She screwed up her eyes as if at the height of orgasm, not that she knew anything about that sort of thing — everybody knew she was frigid. She smirked in her most seductive, come-hither manner, head submissively inclined, eyes misty and full of holy devotion.

‘Excellent. But now, listen carefully. Now imagine that Comrade Stalin accepted the Collective’s invitation, promising to come, but circumstances of state prevent him from doing so. The workers are waiting at the station, banners in hand, you among them, Comrade, when suddenly instead of this Comrade a different Comrade steps out of the train and announces that a different delegation has arrived instead of Comrade Stalin. Act that out for me. Act out the disappointment and then the joy at having other guests arrive.’

Ruzena scored heavily again.
At that time Stalin was very sick and we were learning that song as a token of our longing for his recovery.
‘Excellent,’ Sourek praised Ruzena, ‘that’s just about the way it should be. Now you, Comrade.’
He was going in order. Next to Ruzena sat Milada Spackova, I’d say just about the most intelligent girl in the chorus. She had far too many defences to allow her to put on a fake sorrow act. She sang through Dear Tovarish Stalin as if it were Mary had a Little Lamb.

‘Comrade,’ said Sourek in a kindergarten-teacher voice, ‘I watched you carefully throughout the song. You didn’t move a muscle in your face the whole time. Try it again and think, Comrade, think!’
No good. She was thinking of other things and felt embarrassed.
‘Not like that. That won’t do at all. Say the text along with me, Comrade, and try to understand its contents. Do you know the meaning of the word contents?’
That must have really made Milada boil. But she said nothing.
‘The contents is when . . . hahaha . . .’ Sourek was enjoying his little joke. ‘Isn’t that right?’ and several loyalists joined in laughing with him. Milada still said nothing, but her face grew a bit pink.
‘No, now seriously.’ He stopped laughing and the others did too. With a note of pedagogic condescension in his voice he proceeded to instruct her.
‘The contents, after all, is what holds the words together and gives them their meaning. When I say “It’s raining,” it’s different from when I say “It’s raining on our love.” Do you understand the contents of those words?’
Suddenly Milada had had enough.
‘When you say “It’s raining on our love” I understand the contents of those words to be the same as if you said “There’s a hole in the roof, old girl.” ‘
He didn’t get it. A buzz went through the chorus. ‘Silence, Comrades, we’re not here to discuss literary theory. Sing it again, Comrade, and think. For God’s sake think!’

Milada did think. She was always thinking, which is why the song sounded even icier this time. Unable to make the thick-headed Comrade comprehend the meaning of ‘contents’, Sourek launched a frontal attack upon her feelings. ‘Comrade, at least try to bear in mind how much you love Comrade Stalin. At least express your love with your eyes, if you can’t do it with facial mimicry.’

Milada took a breath and prepared to sing again. ‘No, don’t sing. Just look at me for a moment as if I were Comrade Stalin. Show it. Show how much you love him.’ He straddled a chair in front of Milada, leaned his chin against the backrest and hypnotized her. Milada looked back at him, stared at him and then suddenly made a face and said: ‘Why should I love him?’
Sourek practically fell over backwards.

‘What?’ he roared. He jumped up, grabbed a picture of the Marshall from the wall, and thrust it in front of Milada’s face. A spider-web fluttered from the frame.
‘Do you know who Stalin is, Comrade?’
‘That’s just it. I do know,’ answered Milada calmly. At that moment we realized that this was no longer funny. A horrified rustle went through the Chorus.
‘How can I love somebody I’ve never even met? A myth. It’s as if you tried to force me to love Santa Claus.’
‘Well! This is the last straw! What kind of … how can you . . .a. person like that. . .’ hopelessly he raked his hand through his thinning hair and staggered towards the piano scandalized beyond words. There, for a moment, he quite broke down, his hair standing on end from the raking, his chest heaving with emotion—all in all, a great act. Then he flung aside the piano stool sending it flying practically into our laps.
‘This has got to be dealt with immediately!’ He pointed a finger towards his feet, as if at a dog, and barked, ‘You’re coming with me to see Comrade Director this very instant!’

But even before Milada had a chance to react the door opened slowly and quietly and into the music room tottered Kolarik, then our Director, head hanging practically to his stomach, a broken, tragic figure on the verge of collapse. All of us froze with fear. Even Sourek.
Kolarik reeled to the centre of the music room, raised his head, and looked about at us with red-rimmed eyes. Then he let his head drop again and said in the trembling voice of the emotion-struck amateur actor:
‘Comrade . . . Comrade . . . Comrade Stalin has just passed away.’
A thunderbolt. A sudden howling not unlike a most difficult vocal exercise, a wild flailing of arms, head covered with hands, a forward lunge, a mad dash for the door and slam! Ruzena Holenkova had made her grand exit. Out in the corridor the Ladies’ Room door slammed.
To a man the girls fished out handkerchiefs from their pocketbooks. Alenka Fantova blew her nose loudest of all. She was undoubtedly chagrined that Ruzena had beaten her to the punch. Now it was too late. Everything had worked out beautifully for Ruzena, almost as if she’d been rehearsing for it at home beforehand. I bet she had worried that Stalin might not kick the bucket during working hours.

‘Arise, Comrades,’ Sourek uttered valiantly. ‘Arise and let us observe three minutes of silence to honor the memory of the greatest genius of all times.’
We arose. From the benches came a conglomeration of sniffles and whimpers while the men cleared their throats manfully. Who was going to time those three minutes, I wondered. Hardly a minute had gone by according to my calculations before Holenkova reappeared in the music room, a handkerchief soaked with water from the tap in her hand, her eyes rubbed to a splendid red. She stood in the doorway and resumed her superb performance for a while.
When we had served our allotted time we were all dismissed for the day. That suited me fine. It probably suited almost everybody; nonetheless we maintained a most pious demeanour, at least as far as the trolley stop.
Milada Spackova was out on her ear within the hour. Sourek the Comedian came to coach us about two more times before he gave up.
Finally even the bonuses for expression were abolished and I the joyous songs of celebration went on sounding insipid and uniform.


This speech was held at the Literární Akademie’s conference Labyrinth Of
Women In Literature, in Prague, Czech Republic, February 15-16, 2007.

”In Swedish you can do anything… Especially talk stupid.” – Sins for Father Knox

Male crime writers with female detectives may not be very common, but they certainly exist. In 1973, Josef Skvorecky published a collection of short stories, Sins For Father Knox, in which a nightclub singer called Eva Adamova solves murder mysteries in classical whodunit style. Who is she then, this musical amateur sleuth, which position does she hold in crime fiction and in Skvorecky’s writings?

Women authors have for a long time dominated crime fiction, and many of the foremost mystery writers are women. It’s not easy to explain the female dominance in this field, but the fact remains that Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Patricia Highsmith and others, are not only the most widely read authors, but they have also created works to which every mystery writer to be has to relate in some way.

However, the female dominance among crime writers doesn’t seem to have had any significant effect on the choice of principal characters. Just like their male colleagues, women authors tend to use male detectives: Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy Sayer’s case, Ngaio Marsh has got Sir Roderick Alleyn, and Ruth Rendell solves her murders with the help of Inspector Wexford.

When Colleen A Barnett compiled her Mystery Women: An Encyclopedia Of Leading Women Characters In Mystery Fiction, she found almost 400 stories featuring detective heroines between the years 1860-1979, but only 11 were written before 1900. The first female detective in history, “Mrs G”, first appeared in Andrew Forrester Jr’s novel The Female Detective from 1864. Forrester doesn’t tell us much about her background or motives, and she remains a rather anonymous figure.

Along with the Women’s Liberation movement, the number of female detectives increased. A quick run-through of Barnett’s encyclopaedia shows that the female “blood hounds” often had working-experiences from various professions, nursing, secretarial work, and teaching. Some were archaeologists or journalists. The most well-known character however, is the financially independent woman who tracks the killer down while knitting or baking sponge cakes. The spinster detective has become a literary convention, and the most famous of them all is of course Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

During The Jazz Age, a new generation of women detectives with more verve and spirit made their way into criminal fiction, often together with spouses and boyfriends. Very popular were Dashiell Hammett’s glamorous detective couple Nick and Nora Charles, affectionately bantering and mixing their Manhattans in foxtrot time. Even Agatha Christie used a married couple, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, whose adventures often turned into mild parodies of the genre.
Women detectives have become more frequent during the last decades; they are more equal, sexier, tougher, and better educated. Skvorecky’s female detective Eva Adamova is one of the precursors of these modern heroines.

Josef Skvorecky has said in an interview that he discovered detective stories rather late in life. It was during a stay in hospital, he was so ill that he almost died, and he found comfort and joy in the ingeniously designed murder mysteries.

Skvorecky has returned to crime fiction many times. In 1965, he published a series of essays on detective stories, and you can also find elements of a detective story in novels that are not really crime fiction, for instance Miss Silver’s Past from 1969 and The Miracle Game from 1972. Even Skvorecky’s novel Two Murders In My Double Life from 2001 about the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution is centred around a murder mystery. In recent years, Skvorecky has published several crime novels together with Zdena Salivarova.

In view of the great interest Skvorecky has for crime fiction, it is remarkable how little attention his actual detective stories have received by literary scholars. In Sam Solecki’s broad study Prague Blues, they are only mentioned in passing, and none of the contributors to the anthology The Achievement Of Josef Skvorecky has chosen to discuss his Boruvka stories, nor did the special Skvorecky issue published by Literature Today in 1980.

There is one female detective missing in the Bartlett encyclopaedia: Eva Adamova. The reason may be that she appears in a series of detective stories in which the main character is a man, lieutenant Josef Boruvka. The Boruvka series begins with a collection of short stories, The Mournful Demeanour Of Lieutenant Boruvka, but in the second part, Sins For Father Knox, Adamova is the principal character.

Who then, is this Eva Adamova?

One thing you can say with certainty. She doesn’t have a lot in common with Miss Marple. They are both amateur detectives who more or less stumble into new murder cases in classic detective story fashion, but this is where the similarities end. Miss Marple is a quiet spinster detective who prefers to blend into the background to be able to observe. Eva Adamova is a young nightclub singer who has great difficulties in fending off unwanted suitors, has got a foul mouth and isn’t unused to alcohol. However, they differ the most in their working methods. Miss Marple works associatively, using her village parallels to get to the murderer, while Eva Adamova, following in the foot steps of C Auguste Dupin, solves the cases by deduction.

Eva Adamova is a “slender young woman, blonde, with grey, widely spaced eyes”, beautiful and dynamic, quick and intelligent, and always two steps ahead of the police. Despite all this excellence, she is troubled by everyday problems, especially her love life, partly because she tends to act rashly and unreflectingly. She has got what is required from a Sherlock Holmes, but is human enough for the reader to relate to.

Eva Adamova was rather alone as a crime fighting nightclub singer, at least in the seventies when the books were published, but there are a few predecessors. An unusual example is the burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, who wrote a mystery novel called The G-String Murders in 1941. It’s about how Lee herself solves the mystery with the stripper who was strangled with her own G string. Lee and Adamova are both in a line of work that has a bad reputation, and they are surrounded by men who constantly try to get them into bed. A forever blushing and stuttering policeman in Lee’s novel bears a strong resemblance to Skvorecky’s many shy and timid constables. The G-String Murders and Sins For Father Knox belong to the same literary tradition; they are both written tongue-in-cheek and have a slightly ironic attitude. In Lee’s novel for example, the victim is found during a solemn grand opening of a public convenience.
The parallel between Adamova and other female detectives, whether they are dancers or old spinsters, should not be drawn too far. Skvorecky is in all probability not inspired by Agatha Christie or Gypsy Rose Lee. In the preface to Sins For Father Knox, he writes: “I took some clay of subconscious origin and created an ideal woman (ideal in a platonic sense, that is – not in the sense that certain people refer to as moral) and made her commit a variety of sins.”

Adamova may have few counterparts in crime fiction, but she has several sisters in Skvorecky’s works. In 1968, Skvorecky co-wrote the script to Jiri Menzel’s satiric musical Crime In A Night Club, in which one of the main characters is Clara Regina, a blond nightclub singer with a complicated love life and a symbolic name, just like Eva Adamova. A blond singer also appears in The Miracle Game, here named Suzi Kajetanova, friend of Danny Smiricky, who gets into trouble with the political police after 1968. I wouldn’t be too bold in guessing that all these characters have the same real life model: Czech jazz singer Eva Pilarova, Skvorecky’s long time friend. If you have followed Skvorecky’s writing through the years, you know that Eva Pilarova pops up in his stories from time to time under different names. The heroine of Crime In A Night Club was also played by Pilarova, and Skvorecky wrote the part directly for her.

Adamova, Regina and Kajetanova all have one thing in common. They are not political, but they have too much integrity to avoid political persecution. In almost identical wording, Skvorecky has a couple of times summarized why the blonde singers were so threatening to the power structure in Czechoslovakia. Kajetanova “indulges in something that is human and indulged in by everyone else”, and Adamova “does what is human, and what everyone does.” This non-ideologic attitude must with necessity clash with authorities who look upon creativity and spontaneity as enemies of society.
   The concept of sin is present through all the books. Boruvka and Adamova both have a Catholic background, and their lifestyles would be perceived as sinful by many of their fellow believers.

In his essay on crime fiction, Czech writer Karel Capek makes a distinction between sin and crime:

A sin is a certain bad state of the soul, whereas a crime is a certain bad course of things. There are deadly sins which are not deadly crimes, and vice versa.

Capek maintains that authors of detective-stories don’t concern themselves with sin, only with crime. That is, according to him, the difference between Dostoyevsky and Arthur Conan Doyle. The Boruvka series contradicts this statement. The stories about Boruvka and Adamova bring up moral issues in relation to justice and ethics, crime and sin, Commandment and Law. The short story An Atlantic Romance discusses the right to take your own revenge outside the law, the same theme as in the novel Miss Silver’s Past.

A recurring theme in the short stories is the discrepancy between the things we say and the things we do, the reality behind the grand ideals. “The more devout you are, the more you enjoy sinning”, Eva says, and adds self-critically: “Which I can confirm from my own experience, God forgive me.”

Skvorecky has said that he sees at least two important functions of the crime novel. First of all, it works well as an intellectually stimulating escape from reality when times are hard. Secondly, it gives the author a possibility to write about the darker side of things and still be entertaining. These two functions exist simultaneously and in full harmony in the Boruvka books. If the books are both realistic and escapistic, you might say that the author uses Boruvka for writing the former and Adamova for the latter.

Boruvka and Adamova live in the same world, but  represent different realities. This becomes apparent if you compare the narrative in Sins For Father Knox and the following book, The End Of Lieutenant Boruvka. Skvorecky turns the two stories inside out, much like a negative to a photography. In Sins For Father Knox, Boruvka appears in the first and last chapters, and in the chapters between the field is left to Eva. In the case of The End Of Lieutenant Boruvka, it’s the other way around; Eva only appears as a minor character in the beginning and at the end of the book.

Boruvka’s experiences in life have been much darker than Adamova’s. He is a policeman working within a system that is in itself criminal. In the first book from 1966, written during a period when Skvorecky still had to consider the censorship, his stories are principally “whodunits”, but when Boruvka returns in the third book, it’s in a realistic narrative of Czechoslovakia of the time. Boruvka is growing frustrated over not being able to perform his duties, not being able to catch a killer because the killer is protected by his party loyalty. In case after case, he has to stand aside and watch the real criminals escape.

In 1975, Skvorecky was in exile and did no longer have to care about his censors. To let Boruvka work like a detached “whodunit detective” in a country governed by criminals suddenly appeared as irresponsible; ignoring politics would be a distortion of reality.

Still, there is always room for fantasies and dreams. Skvorecky has never questioned the value of crime fiction as light reading, and this is where Eva Adamova, his “ideal woman”, comes into the picture. When Skvorecky feels like playing, Boruvka steps down, or withdraws temporarily, and he lets Eva take over.

There are a certain kind of politically committed critics who condemn escapistic literature, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to get away from reality for a while. It’s only when escapism has disguised itself as realism, as is the case with socialistic realism, that it becomes a problem. There is a big difference between perfectly legitimate, even necessary, daydreams, and deliberate lies.

The escapistic function of Sins For Father Knox is probably the reason Eva Adamova has to go out on a worldwide tour. In the book, she visits France, Italy, Sweden and the US, which contributes to the light atmosphere of the book. In this way, Skvorecky doesn’t have to confront Eva with The Big Crime in her home country. The author visited the same places before 1968, and in an interview, he described how he felt about Communist Czechoslovakia compared to the free world: “I had come from a world that was drab to one that was colourful.”

The good-humoured stories about Eva Adamova are fantasies, a moments rest from the harsh reality that Boruvka has to face in his profession. Adamova’s stories are not realistic police stories. They are more like Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, intellectual games, riddles to be cracked in front of the open fire. Eva Adamova’s literary figure represents improvisation, play and joy, all that was banned in the home country at that time. When Sins For Father Knox was adapted for Czech television in 1992, the episodes were broadcasted live, and the feeling of  game and improvisation from the book was kept by regularly letting the camera explore the area behind the scenes. They also added a guessing game to the programme. A person from the audience was given a walk-on part, and it was the object of the audience to pick him or her out.

It’s remarkable how elegantly Skvorecky has succeeded in putting together two so seemingly incompatible styles as escapism and realism. It’s true that Dashiell Hammett wrote both about a glamorous couple like Nick and Nora Charles, and a shabby private eye like Sam Spade, but they never appeared in the same books. In the Boruvka series, the author moves easily from The Closed Room to political murder.

The character of Eva Adamova never appears in the last novel, but the readers are told that she was imprisoned in Prague for her association with Boruvka, but escaped and finally ended up in Toronto where she married her melancholy lieutenant. In the country they left, there was no place for an honest policeman or a free-spirited woman.

By Martin Kristenson.

Translated from Swedish by Agneta Kristenson.

Answer the Footnotes


Martin Kristenson

Všecko začalo jedné zimy před sedmnácti lety. Právě jsem se přestěhoval do města, kde jsem nikoho neznal, opustila mne moje dívka a život mi připadal úplně beznadějný. Ležel jsem v posteli a četl román Prima sezóna od Josefa Škvoreckého, autora, o němž jsem nikdy předtím neslyšel. Příběh se odehrává v Československu ve čtyřicátých letech; Evropa je ve válce a země je obsazena nacisty. Hlavní hrdina Danny Smiřický žije na malém městě. Je mu něco málo pod dvacet, hraje v jazzové kapele na tenorsaxofon a neúnavně, nicméně bezúspěšně se dvoří všem hezkým dívkám, které potká. V každé kapitole sledujeme, jak Danny se vší parádou vyráží dobývat srdce některé z místních krásek, jak jeho snahy neslavně končí a jak se s každým nezdarem prohlubuje jeho frustrace: „Za co mě zas trestáš, Panebože? Pročs teda vůbec dělal holky, když si katolický křesťan, jak to vypadá, na ně snad nesmí ani sáhnout?“

Přesto je Danny založením optimista, jehož radost ze života je nezničitelná. Právě to mne uchvátilo: bez ohledu na to, v jak temné době se děj odehrává, je Prima sezóna radostná knížka. Dannyho nezlomný entusiasmus mne nakazil a proměnil mé zoufalství v naději.

Hned jsem se pustil do dalšího Škvoreckého románu o mladém Dannym, do Zbabělců. V něm jsem našel řádky, které podle mě nejlépe vyjadřují Dannyho životní postoj a připadají mi pořád povzbuzující: „A když jsem to vzal poctivě, bylo dobré i to, že jsem Irenu miloval a že ona chodila se Zdeňkem, i to, že bylo lepší, že jsem moh jen snít a psát milostné testamenty. A i to by bylo dobré, kdybych s ní doopravdy chodil. Všechno bylo dobré. Úplně všechno. Vlastně nebylo nic špatné na světě.“

Jde vůbec lépe vyjádřit mladistvé potěšení z prostého faktu, že je člověk naživu?

Jsem o třicet šest let mladší než Josef Škvorecký a pocházím z velmi odlišného prostředí. Vyrostl jsem v demokratické zemi, která válkou prošla naposledy počátkem 19. století. Druhá světová válka, to pro mne byly jen černobílé týdeníky, v nichž pochodovaly šiky německých vojáků a hořela města, jakýsi strašlivý svět, hodně vzdálený a těžko pochopitelný. Díky Škvoreckému mi tato část evropské historie vyvstala živě před očima a mohu zodpovědně prohlásit, že jsem při čtení jeho knih získal do tohoto období hlubší vhled, než by mi mohly nabídnout jakékoli jiné zdroje. V Prima sezóně se díváme na svět očima nežidovského mladíka, který se jako Čech naštěstí nemusel stát německým vojákem. Nacisté jsou stále přítomní a představují permanentní hrozbu, ale současně tu jsou dívky v letních šatech a Duke Ellington se svým orchestrem. K novele Eine Kleine Jazzmusik mi Škvorecký napsal: „Tím nejpodstatnějším pro podobné mladé jazzbandy kdekoli po světě byla zábava, bez ohledu na to, jak těžká byla doba. Lidé žertovali, dělali recesi, nebrali nijak tragicky takové věci jako třeba vyloučení ze školy, protože všichni věděli, že válka jednou skončí a že ji nacisté nevyhrají.“

Jedna pasáž v Prima sezóně mě opravdu překvapila. K Dannyho oblíbeným filmům patří švédský film z roku 1940 Swing it, magistern! se zpěvačkou Alicí Babs. (V protektorátních kinech byl film uváděn pod názvem Celá škola tančí. – pozn. překl.) Vždycky jsem miloval staré černobílé filmy, natočené dávno předtím, než jsem se narodil, a tak mě zvlášť potěšilo zjištění, že je viděl a obdivoval i spisovatel z docela cizí země. Zrovna se blížily Škvoreckého sedmdesáté narozeniny, a tak jsem se rozhodl poslat mu snímek Swing it, magistern!  na videokazetě. Tušil jsem, že ho od války neviděl, a napadlo mě, že by si ho možná docela rád osvěžil. Hodnou chvíli trvalo, než jsem ho sehnal, a navíc se mi nakonec podařilo získat jenom netitulkovanou kopii, ale cosi mi říkalo, že to na tom nesejde. „Babsiánština“ je srozumitelná všude. Z tohoto prvního kontaktu s mým oblíbeným spisovatelem se posléze rozvinula korespondence, již spolu vedeme již deset let.

Alice Babs a hlupáci

Když se ve čtyřicátých letech objevila jazzová zpěvačka Alice Babs, brzy kolem ní vznikl pořádný rozruch. Duchovní, rodiče, učitelé a další zástupci dospělého světa byli mladou zpěvačkou zděšeni. „Babsimánie“, jak se tomu začalo říkat, byla považována za zhoubu pro zdravý vývoj mládeže. Jeden z hlavních představitelů švédského hudebního průmyslu napsal rozhorlený článek, v němž tvrdil, že Alice Babs „zpívá jako coura“ a že by jí měli „vrazit pár facek a strčit ji zpátky do školy“. Nějakou dobu vládla pořádně dusná atmosféra. Jakýsi vikář označil kult Alice Babs jako „slintavku a kulhavku devastující kulturní život“ a v jednom z hlavních švédských deníků doporučovali jejím rodičům, aby ji poslali do polepšovny. Člověku, který viděl její filmy, musí celé tohle pozdvižení nutně připadat poněkud nepochopitelné: postavy, které Alice Babs hraje, rozhodně nejsou žádné rebelky. Ba naopak – zpravidla ztělesňuje dobrosrdečné, domácké, téměř submisivní dívky. Důvod, proč byla považována za „společenskou hrozbu“, musí souviset s jejím nebývalým hudebním cítěním a dokonalým smyslem pro swing, zaznívajícími z jejího hlasu. Dospělý svět se zalekl temných smyslných sil, které tento druh hudby osvobozoval. Alice Babs hrála dobře vychované dívky, ale její písně vyprávěly jiný příběh, protože vyjadřovaly živelnost mládí a vzbuzovaly ve švédských teenagerech naději. A nejen v těch švédských. Ve svých vzpomínkách Alice Babs píše, že za války se její hudba setkala v Evropě s vřelým přijetím. Jak se dozvídala z občasných dopisů, pro spoustu lidí v okupovaných zemích byla její hudba útěchou. V roce 1946 jí kdosi vyprávěl o promítání filmu Swing it, magistern! v pražském kině Lido, kde obecenstvo nadšeně bouřilo při scéně, v níž si Alice swingem získá srdce členů školní rady a vyhne se tak vyhazovu za to, že zpívala v barech.

Josef Škvorecký viděl film Celá škola zpívá aspoň desetkrát, popravdě řečeno daleko víckrát než já. Švédská jazzová hudba se k němu dostala díky radiu Stockholm, což byla jediná nacisty nerušená stanice, která vysílala jazz. Filmy s Alicí Babs však cenzuře neunikly. Když měl být v roce 1942 uveden v Praze film Zpívající děvče, nebylo jeho promítání povoleno kvůli dvěma songům, které Alice zpívala anglicky, tedy jazykem v protektorátu přísně zakázaným. Aby mohli film uvést, najali distributoři talentovanou českou jazzovou zpěvačku Inku Zemánkovou, která tyto dvě písně nazpívala švédsky, tedy v jazyce, z něhož neznala ani slovo. Na tom je hezky vidět, jak absurdní situace vznikají, když se totalitní režim snaží přimět realitu, aby vyhovovala jeho ideologii. Sám jsem ty nahrávky bohužel nikdy neslyšel, ale v jednom interview s Inkou Zemánkovou jsem se dočetl, že od švédských fanoušků dostala pár dopisů pochvalně se vyjadřujících o její „švédštině“. [1]

Být jazzovým fanouškem ve Švédsku a v Československu, to byl přirozeně velký rozdíl. Ve Švédsku mohli morousové na Alici vztekle štěkat v médiích, ale nemohli svá slova podepřít autoritativní mocí. Ať jazz nenáviděli, jak chtěli, mladí ho pořád mohli hrát a tančit. A Alice mohla svým kritikům odpovědět v jedné ze svých písní (zhruba přeloženo):

Ať si myslí, že jsem coura,

na to vůbec nehledím,

nedělám si z toho hlavu,

po celou noc zpívám swing.

V okupovaných zemích byla jiná situace: tam byli fanatikové u moci a mohli pronásledovat a dokonce uvěznit každého, kdo jim oponoval. Fanatikové vždycky byli a vždycky budou; jak však Škvorecký ukazuje ve svých příbězích, podstatné je nedovolit jim ovládat životy druhých.

Na záložce Prima sezóny si můžeme přečíst podtitul: Text o nejdůležitějších věcech života. A to je myslím přesně to, co autor dokázal rozpoznat a navíc skvěle vyjádřit. Tou nejdůležitější věcí nebyli nacisté; odpor proti nim byl sice důležitý, ale oni sami důležití nebyli. Zvuk bassaxofonu, všecky krásy světa, láska a lidské vztahy, tohle bylo to podstatné.

Když jsem četl Prima sezónu, vybavila se mi jedna scéna z Chaplinova filmu Moderní doba (1936). Z projíždějícího náklaďáku spadne výstražný praporek. Malý tulák jej – úslužně jako vždy – zvedne a rozběhne se za autem. Zběsile přitom praporkem mává, aby upoutal řidičovu pozornost. Náhle se přímo za ním objeví dav demonstrantů a zasahující policisté Chaplina zatknou, protože se domnívají, že demonstraci vede. Ačkoli to jistě nebylo Chaplinovým záměrem, připadá mi tato scéna jako dokonalá metafora rozdílu mezi demokracií a totalitním systémem. V demokracii je na vás, jestli se jako ti demonstrující rozhodnete politicky se angažovat. V totalitním systému je takřka nemožné politice uniknout: ať chcete nebo nechcete, ocitnete se v politických souvislostech – jako ten Chaplin s červeným praporkem. Politika proniká do každodenního života a stát sleduje každou lidskou aktivitu, včetně aktivit velmi osobních.

Před Prima sezónou jsem se nikdy nesetkal s knížkou, jež by s podobnou jistotou ukazovala, které hodnoty totalita ohrožuje. Tohle si chceme uhájit, tohle je to, co nám chtějí odepřít. Nacisté označili Dannyho milovaný jazz za Entartete Kunst a zakázali ho. Každý, kdo žil pod tlakem nacistů nebo komunistů, ví, že největší hrozbu pro totalitní systémy představuje touha svobodně se projevit. Pro ty, kdo jako já nikdy nežili jinak než v demokracii, to je méně zřetelné.

Autor a jeho publikum

Později jsem zjistil, že Škvorecký udržuje kontakty s mnoha svými čtenáři, a musím říci, že mne to nepřekvapuje. Nejsem sám, koho povzbudila vřelost a otevřenost jeho knih. Nemám ve zvyku posílat svým oblíbeným spisovatelům dopisy nebo dárky, ale v tomto případě mi to přišlo zcela přirozené. Něco mi říkalo, že autor Prima sezóny bude člověk, kterého zajímá, kdo jeho knihy čte. Myslím, že udržování kontaktu s okruhem svých čtenářů je důležitou součástí Škvoreckého literární činnosti. Jeho texty vás vyzývají ke spoluúčasti. Jsou plné odkazů k jiným jeho knihám, a všude autor pokyvuje na pozorného čtenáře. V tiráži prvního vydání Miráklu se dočteme, že redaktorem knihy je Karel Leden, tedy hlavní postava románu Lvíče. Redaktorkou Příběhu inženýra lidských duší je podle údaje v tiráži Jana Honzlová, alter ego autorovy ženy v jejím románu Honzlová, a v detektivce Návrat poručíka Borůvky je vražda spáchána v ulici, kde Škvorecký bydlí. Takových příkladů bych mohl uvést spoustu a spousta mi jich nepochybně unikla, ale i z těchto několika je myslím zřejmé, jakým způsobem si Škvorecký vytváří onen osobní vztah se čtenáři (trochu mi to připomíná Hitchcockův zvyk zjevovat se ve vlastních filmech).

Čtenáři na jeho vstřícnost reagují po svém. Britský saxofonista Anthony Thistlethwaite se po přečtení jeho románů tak zoufale zamiloval do Marie Dreslerové, že pro ni napsal píseň a pak odjel do Náchoda skutečnou Marii navštívit. Jeden můj dobrý přítel se naopak odmítá podívat na fotografie reálné Marie a Ireny, protože by si tím poničil představu, kterou si o nich vytvořil. Románové dívky jsou pro něj tak živé, že pohled na jejich skutečné portréty by znamenal konec jeho fiktivní romance.

Nejsem literární vědec a nehodlám se pouštět do analýz Škvoreckého díla. Chci jenom vyjádřit, jak moc pro mne jeho knížky znamenají. Přesto myslím, že jednou drobností bych  literární vědě přispět mohl. Před pár lety mi došel poštou tlustý balíček a ukázalo se, že je to nový Škvoreckého román, Nevysvětlitelný příběh. Byla to pocta jeho oblíbenému autorovi Edgaru Alanu Poeovi, napsaná zjevně ve velmi hravém duchu a prošpikovaná nejrůznějšími literárními narážkami a odkazy. Některé z nich jsem rozluštil. Tak třeba profesor Howard Phillips Langhorn z „Miskatonické univerzity“ je zcela jistě Howard Phillips Lovecraft, jehož hororové příběhy jsem hltal jako kluk. Jeden z těchto odkazů mne ale doslova zvedl ze židle. Na straně 146 jsem objevil postavu jménem Michaela Swinkels-Kristenson. A tak jsem se tedy sám stal součástí Škvoreckého literární hry a hrdou poznámkou pod čarou v české literární historii. Dnes vím, že i Michaela Swinkels je čtenářkou, s níž si Škvorecký dopisuje, takže to vypadá, že jsme teď něco jako „literární příbuzní“.

„Ten zoufalý výkřik mládí“

Věcí, ke kterým mám svůj osobní vztah, je ve Škvoreckého románech spousta. Nejde jen o to, že mám stejné zájmy, mám rád swing a líbí se mi hollywoodská zlatá éra; to hlavní, co mám s Dannym a dalšími románovými postavami společné, je vnitřní nastavení. Dá se to těžko slovy vyjádřit, ale stručně řečeno mě upoutalo jejich nadšení. Danny si dovolí nechat se filmem, literaturou a hudbou unést, rozjitřit nebo znepokojit, a já v jeho pocitech rozeznávám vlastní rozjařenost, která se mne při jazzu zmocňuje. Vím přesně, co měl Škvorecký na mysli, když psal o „oblasti krásy, která je – nebo by měla být – výraznou součástí lidskosti“, a vím také, proč se v Bassaxofonu v podtextu skrývají verše Ezry Pounda: [2]

Co vřele miluješ, to zůstává, ostatní je drek.

Co vřele miluješ, nikdo ti nevyrve.

Co vřele miluješ, je tvoje pravé dědictví…

Jako chlapec se Škvorecký sám učil anglicky; ne proto, aby udělal dojem na své učitele, ale aby mohl napsat obdivný dopis Judy Garlandové. V Miráklu Danny Smiřický navštíví Los Angeles a před Gaumont Chinese Cinema udělá sentimentální gesto: vloží prst do jamky, kterou do vlhkého betonového chodníku vtiskla Judy svým vysokým podpatkem. O třicet let později jsem učinil totéž, kráčeje tak doslova ve stopách hned dvou svých oblíbenců. Abyste pochopili potřebu činit podobná gesta, musíte v sobě pravděpodobně cítit „ten zoufalý výkřik mládí“. „Pro mě byla literatura vždycky hrou na saxofon,“ napsal kdesi Škvorecký. Hudba, která se line z jeho saxofonu, vyjadřuje současně radost z toho, že je člověk naživu, i smutek nad nedokonalostí života, stejně jako údiv nad světem a jeho „těkavým vzrušením a skrytými stezkami“, vyjádřeno slovy jednoho švédského básníka.

„Spisovatelovým řemeslem je mluvit pravdu.“ Tímto Hemingwayovým mottem se Škvorecký vždycky řídil, a to je důvod, proč jsou jeho romány současně tak individuální i univerzální. Co na tom záleží, že mne od Škvoreckého dělí třicet šest let a oceán? Velká literatura je most, který dokáže překonat propast času i prostoru. Proč tolika čtenářům připadá naprosto přirozené psát Škvoreckému dopisy, proč cestují do jeho rodného města a hledají tam Marii a Irenu? Asi to bude proto, že Škvorecký je přesně takovým spisovatelem, o jakém George Orwell napsal: „…cítíte zvláštní útěchu, ani ne tak z toho, že rozumíte, jako z toho, že vám někdo rozumí. »Ví o mně všechno,« zdá se vám, »napsal to právě pro mne.« Jako byste slyšeli hlas, který k vám hovoří /…/ bez přetvářky, bez moralizování, pouze s vnitřním předpokladem, že všichni jsme si podobní.“

Vsecko nejlepsi k narozeninam, Josef!

Z angličtiny přeložila Alena Přibáňová


[1] K této půvabné historce ovšem Josef Škvorecký dodává, že podle jeho vzpomínky nezpívala Inka Zemánková ve filmu tyto písně švédsky, nýbrž německy. Sama zpěvačka v jednom z rozhlasových rozhovorů uvedla, že písně nazpívala s Vlachovým orchestrem česky, to se ovšem zdá poněkud nepravděpodobné. Do uzávěrky tohoto čísla Dannyho se nám bohužel v Národním filmovém archivu nepodařilo zjistit, která z uvedených verzí odpovídá skutečnosti. – Pozn. překl.

[2] Český překlad Jana Zábrany citován podle knihy Josefa Škvoreckého Příběh neúspěšného tenorsaxofonisty (Praha 1994, s. 68)

Interview with Josef Skvorecky in the Iranian literary magazine Golestaneh

This interview with Josef Skvorecky was published in the Iranian literary magazine Golestaneh in 2006. The Skvorecky feature covers 14 pages, including a short story. Thanks to editor and translator Mohammadreza Farzad for permission to publish his interview on this website.

Why do you write novels?

Out of an inner need. I wrote my first novel when I was about nine years of age. At that time I avidly read an American-Canadian writer, James Curwood, who wrote adventure novels set mostly in Canada. He started a trilogy but died after finishing the second part. I finished the trilogy for him. It was titled The Mysterious Cave and was all nineteen pages long.

How do the processes of working on a short story or novel or memoir differ from one another, for you? Is there any difference once you’ve actually sat down and begun to work?

A short story captures an episode – sometimes very short – from life. A novel – the kind I write mostly – is a string of such episodes linked together by some more or less uninteresting but necessary text. The ancients called this sort of thing Pons asinorum – the bridge for donkeys. The difference is that a story, if inspired, and depending on length, can be written in one session. A novel requires months, and often years. I wrote The Bride of Texas, a historical novel about Czech volunteer soldiers in the American Civil War, in seven years.

What role does the reader play in your work? Are you aware of a future reader when you write a novel? Has the reader’s taste ever influenced the way you constructed a book?

Like most writers, I attempt to write so that I would enjoy the result myself. If I succeed in this, I submit the result for publication. The gist of the matter is that I don‘t like the result if it is only about myself, in which case I put it in my desk drawer and forget about it. I suspect that my literary taste is that of most more or less intelligent readers. In this sense I am always influenced by the taste of my readers.

In The Bass Saxophone, do you create characters and events that are based on personal recollections or is the story purely fictional?

The basic story of The Bass Saxophone was told to me by a friend of mine who had been lured into appearing with a German band by a promise that he would be able to play their bass saxophone – an instrument at that time absolutely unavailable, almost mythical. My country was occupied by Nazi Germany, so for a Czech young man to play with a German orchestra was unthinkable. The German musicians in the story are a nightmare created by my war experience.

What are the difficulties in changing a real character into fictional?

I have never found it difficult. Probably because that is the experience of every honest writer. Fictional characters are, to quote Goethe, always „Dichtung und Wahrheit“, in other words, Imagination and Reality: that cocktail we mix our characters from. And it‘s not richness, in the sense of many adventures, that makes a great writer. It‘s the intensity of his perceptions.

All of your novels vividly document the Czech experience. I wonder if you feel able at this point to create a fiction within another socio-historical context?

You‘re right: at the centre of my stories there are always Czechs. Only once did I attempt to write a novel devoid of them. It‘s called Pulchra and it‘s a prophetic SF Fantasy.

What was the inspiration for The Engineer of Human Souls?

My personal life experience. Under the Nazis, later under the Communists, and eventually in the personal freedom of democracy.

In addition to your roots in Prague, what other literary loves have shaped you?

As a youngster I used to write novels which contained fairly good descriptions of nature, moonlit nights, bloody sunsets and other similar moods – and abominable dialogues. That‘s because for lyrical vision you need very little life experience; many of the greatest poets died very young when they could not have much experience of life. Then I met my first girl friend, a carrot top of a shopgirl, and I read my first Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms. The way the girl spoke was not the way Czech was written in books at that time, and the way Hemingway used his seemingly unimportant dialogue was an eye-opener for me. Somehow the two experiences merged and I was born again as a writer.

What has had the greatest influence on your political life?

The two dictatorships I happened to live under. My father was arrested by the police of both of them, and for the same reason: he was a Czech patriot. So dictatorships became the only object of hate in my life.

How does your concept of Central Europe relate to that of Milan Kundera?

I agree with Milan‘s concept. As writers we are different. He writes in the French, I in the Anglo-American tradition. He is a philosopher, I‘m just a story teller.

Do you feel like an emigre, a Canadian, a Czech, or just a European without specific nationality?

I am a Czech and I am a loyal citizen of Canada. Canada is the country where, for the first time in my adult life, I found freedom, including the freedom to be a Czech and at the same time a Canadian. My real country is the Czech language which is the tongue I learned from my mother.

How would you define “The Spirit of Prague”?

Prague was the idol of my youth when I lived in a small town called Náchod. When I was born, the town was on the Czech-German border, now it is on the Czech-Polish border, without moving from where it was when I saw the light of day there. Prague to me was the city of nightclubs, of jazz, of beautiful film stars. Later I met my wife there with whom I‘ve shared life for almost fifty years now.

With whom do you share a style?

I hope with nobody. As a young writer I was heavily influenced by Hemingway, later by Faulkner, but fortunately I applied what I learned from them on my own stuff. And then that shopgirl, Maggie, the redhead. Literary influences that stayed with me.

Some of your works make me remember Ralph Ellison’s interest in jazz, is he a favorite one ?

I wrote the first jazz novel in Czech literature. Ralph Ellison comes from the people who created jazz. That‘s an unbreakeable link.

What are you working on now?

Since the mid-nineties of the previous century I have been writing detective novels with my wife who, for this purpose, uses her maiden name Zdena Salivarová. So far we have published five, now we are working on our sixth, An Encounter in Toronto, with Murder. The comma is important.

Josef Škvorecký

Mohammadreza farzad, iranian poet and translator, works as world fiction editor of “Golestaneh” literary monthly and has introduced some masters of world literature to iranian audiences for the first time : josef skvorecky, josef heller, stig dagerman, leonard michaels, fernando sorrentino, eduardo galeano and many others. he has compiled and translated two books of short stories by italo calvino, fernando sorrentino.

[email protected]