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When Eve Was Naked: Stories of a Life's…
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When Eve Was Naked: Stories of a Life's Journey

by Joseph Škvorecký

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This collection of short stories spans fifty years of Skvorecky's life, from his childhood in Nachod to a university in Toronto. Many are related by Skvorecky's fictional counterpart, Danny Smiricky.

Danny traces the destruction of Jewish life in Koslovo, the fictional Nachod. He sees his primary school teacher taken to the camps; a once-respected doctor is unable to practise medicine or even to speak to his former patients; people return from the camps to find that their neighbours deny all knowledge of the valuables left with them for safe keeping; Czech children abuse the Jewish schoolmates who were once their closest friends. Through the years, Danny remembers the Jewish people he once knew.

In "Spectator on a February Night," written in 1948, Danny witnesses the Communist coup. Life under Communism is bleak: intellectuals and liberals like Danny are exiled to remote cities; jazz is banned; Czech patriots are executed; people live sad lives without hope. This is a different Danny Smiricky from the ebullient, sardonic narrator of The Cowards. ( )
1 vote pamelad | Sep 5, 2010 |
The book, like many of his, is semi-autobiographical, with the inimitable Danny Smirecky, jazz-loving cynic and lothario, standing in for Skvorecky. The stories in the book are written over a period of 40 years, and are arranged to reflect the major periods in Skvorecky's life (childhood, Nazi occupation, communist rule, emigration to Canada). Although the stories are not linked by common narrative threads, when put together they clearly read as a sort of autobiography.

There is a huge range of quality to the stories. The ones written about his youth left me worried that Skvorecky was a writer who, while excelling in long prose, hadn't mastered the shorter form. However, as I read on, I was blown away by some of his pieces. The strange juxtaposition of frail, self-interested humanity with earth-shattering events is something he has done brilliantly in novels such as The Cowards. He does this in his short stories with equal deftness. In particular, Smiricky's search for love and sex in an imploding Czechoslavakia, and the Canadian professor's wry observations of his callow students (and himself) were every bit as well done as in his novels. Everything is shot through with a beautifully pitched sense of humour. This was another big plus in Skvorecky's win column for me, and a spur to read even more of his books.
1 vote GlebtheDancer | Sep 1, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374149755, Hardcover)



One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Josef Škvorecký has been internationally honored for his passion, wry humor, insight into human and political frailty, and breathtaking style. When Eve Was Naked is Škvorecký's autobiography told in stories. Collected here in a chronological sweep, they take the reader through the stages of a most remarkable life, and bear witness to some of the twentieth century's most eventful and tragic times -- from the innocence of prewar Prague through the horrors of the Nazi occupation and World War II. Many of these are narrated by the tenderhearted cynic Danny Smiricky. In the title story, "Eve Was Naked," seven-year-old Danny falls in love for the first time; at sixteen he hides in a railway station and watches as his Jewish teacher is herded onto a train and taken away. In 1968, as Russian tanks rolled into Prague, Skvorecky fled Czechoslovakia, taking Danny with him. In the collection's final stories Danny begins his tenure as Professor Smiricky at Edenvale -- a Canadian university -- and attempts to come to terms with the politically innocent and self-centered youth that flock to his courses.

Masterfully written, humorous, and wise, When Eve Was Naked is a remarkably revealing work of fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"When Eve Was Naked: Stories of a Life's Journey is the most comprehensive collection of Josef Skvorecky's short fiction to date, and stands as a wonderful introduction to the work of a writer who has been internationally acknowledged for his passion, his wry humor, his insights into human and political frailty, and his inimitable style." "The stories run in a chronological sequence and form a semiautobiographical portrait of Skvorecky's own life. Many are narrated by Skvorecky's beloved fictional alter ego - the tenderhearted cynic Danny Smiricky." "In the title story, eight-year-old Danny falls in love for the first time with six-year-old Eve; at sixteen he watches his Jewish German teacher, Mr. Katz, herded onto a train with his family and taken away; later he witnesses a Communist putsch. While Skvorecky flees Czechoslovakia in 1968, Danny finds a new career for himself in Canada. The later stories in the collection examine the struggles of Danny - now a tenured professor at Edenvale, a Canadian university - to understand his politically innocent and alarmingly self-centered students."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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