Prague Blues: The Fiction of Josef Skvorecky


286 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-110-8
DDC C891.8'63






Reviewed by R. Gordon Moyles

R.G. Moyles is a professor of English at the University of Alberta,
co-author of Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British Views of
Canada, 1880-1914, and co-editor of The Collected Works of E.J. Pratt.


In recent years, Canada has been a haven for many political refugees,
and has been richer for their presence. Among them have been several
excellent writers, who are now—in any age when we are beginning to
recognize the value of our plurality—being read in Canada as well as
abroad. Skvorecky is perhaps chief among them.

When Skvorecky escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1969 and made his way to
Canada, he was already a celebrated novelist; since then, he has
established himself as one of the North America’s major writers
(garnering high praise in the United States), and has received a
Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction (for The Engineer of
Human Souls). Furthermore he has had the joy of being reaccepted in his
own country: in 1990, he was awarded the Order of the White Lion,
Czechoslovakia’s highest honor for foreigners.

Solecki’s “critical study” attempts to define Skvorecky’s
literary achievement in terms of his principal themes, his ironic voice,
and his political vision. Solecki states that he has “written
politico-historical novels which as a group constitute an irreplaceable
fictional chronicle of the past fifty years of Czechoslovak life. . . .
The personal and national wound that was (and is) 1968 provided him with
the challenge of a great subject to which he responded by writing the
novel [The Miracle Game] that is thematically his most profound and
technically his most innovative. His subsequent development as
novelist—the religious vision, the more open form—is inseparable
from the events of that year.” Not only is Solecki’s argument
convincing; but it is eloquently stated. Solecki is himself an
accomplished writer; the clarity of his argument and the felicity of his
expression make this book enjoyable. But, as Solecki would wish it,
readers unfamiliar with Skvorecky’s work should read some of his
novels before taking up Prague Blues.


Solecki, Sam., “Prague Blues: The Fiction of Josef Skvorecky,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,