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(03/30/2008) Miss Silver's Past by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1974. Grove Press. Translated From The Czech By Peter Kussi. Foreword By Graham Greene. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe. GP-723. 297 pages. Cover design by Kenneth R. Deardoff. 0394492935. Originally published as LVICE, 1969 - Ceskoslovensky Spisovatel, Prague, Czechoslovakia.

An early book from Josef Skvorecky.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Josef Skvorecky has become a major literary figure in postwar Europe, and his first novel, The Cowards, was greeted with acclaim both here and abroad as an extraordinary achievement, and certainly the most important postwar novel from Czechoslovakia. Its publication caused a scandal in Prague when it was first published there, and the publication history of Skvorecky's new novel, MISS SILVER'S PAST, has been equally stormy. Made into a film in 1968, the entire second printing of the novel - some 80,000 copies-was seized by the Czechoslovak government in the fall of 1970. In his new novel, Skvorecky tells a spellbinding story of moral corruption and political cynicism in the guise of a love story that turns into a murder mystery. Karel Leden falls in love with Lenka, a beautiful girl with shiny black hair, the minute he sees her on the beach clad in a scanty bikini. But Lenka rebuffs Karel's advances, preferring instead the company of Karel's boss, a balding, middle-aged Communist party official. after a nocturnal boat ride with Lenka his body is washed ashore. The police call it a tragic accident. Who is Lenka? A girl with a mysterious past, a beautiful tramp who teases her lovers? Karel can't make her out, In anguish he begins to drink, in desperation he plays detective. What he discovers is part of the gruesome history of our time. And what had begun as a story of love's labors lost suddenly turns into a political whodunit in which the victim, instead of the murderer, is the criminal. But beyond being a diverting thriller, this novel also offers a remarkable account of life among the privileged few in a Communist society, the first book to give us a glimpse of the underworld of intellectual pimp and literary prostitute that rules the cultural establishment. Never before have we had so authentic a picture of the corrosion of the spirit that besets the party hacks and party-line writers, of hypocrisy rewarded and idealism betrayed. Skvorecky sets his story against the background of a State run publishing company, and he provides an astonishing tour of the literary machine of a Communist state: the technique of repression, how party censorship prevail against a young, audaciously talented writer, how the editors walk a daily tightrope between expediency and courage Skvorecky gives his story dramatic dimension by showing his people in crisis, with a all-seeing eye for the absurdities of the world, the foibles and weaknesses of me and women in a society where survival is the final test. This is a rare blend-a novel of suspenseful action, as well as a chilling examination of a corrupt society blighted by fear a completely compelling work from a master storyteller.  

 

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