Josef Skvorecky: Ordinary Lives

March 8, 2012

51AH0wJGizL._AA160_I’m re-reading some of the novels and stories of Josef Skvorecky, one of my favourite Central European writers, who died recently, and also tracking down some texts that I haven’t read. He was a very thoughtful and humane writer who allowed people their faults. In this novel, his last, I think, he revisits the characters and places that he fictionalised in much of his oeuvre, tracing life in Czechoslovakia through Nazi occupation, Communism and finally ‘freedom’. It’s cleverly done through two school reunions separated by thirty years and the very different political and social situations in his homeland, from which he exiled himself in 1968. Very moving, and very sad, in that he recognises mortality and the inevitability that the strange and pained lives of himself and his friends will eventually vanish into the past and be as nothing.

Already, the events, places and strangeness of those times are fading from view; read these stories and remember that people did such things to each other in the twentieth century….

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