I had some very brief dealings with Josef Škvorecký, and was much taken by anyone who would take a quote of Stalin as a title of one of his books.
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Czech writer, publisher Josef Škvorecký dies
Josef Škvorecký, the prolific novelist, poet and 68 Publishers co-founder, was awarded the Order of the White Lion by Václav Havel
by Brian Kenety
Josef Škvorecký and his wife, Zdena Salivarová, published and sent books to Czechoslovakia and other countries behind the Iron Curtain free of charge. He invested part of his salary as a university teacher into the publishing house and edited most of the books. The imprint became an important outlet for Czech dissident writers like Milan Kundera and Václav Havel. They also reprinted works by émigré writers like Arnošt Lustig and Ferdinand Peroutka.
Josef Škvorecký, a former Czech dissident writer who spent much of his adult life in Canada but continued to support fellow authors back in Czechoslovakia, died in Toronto early on Tuesday morning of cancer at the age of 87.
Along with his wife, actress and fellow émigré writer Zdena Salivarová, he founded the legendary 68 Publishers group (Sixty-Eight Publishers, Corp.) a few years after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that brought an end to what came to be known as the Prague Spring.
Škvorecký was a prolific novelist and poet, whose fiction — banned by the Communists in his homeland — examined the horrors of totalitarianism and repression at the hands of the state, the expatriate experience and jazz.
‘The Cowards (Zbabělci) is a story from the very end of the WWII. Narrated in the first person by a Czech teenager, Danny Smiřický, it takes place from May 4-11, 1945 in a fictional eastern Bohemian small town
He spent two years as a slave laborer in a German aircraft factory during the Second World War, and, after briefly studying medicine at Charles University, switched to the Prague institution’s faculty of arts, from which he received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1951.
During the 1950s, he worked briefly as a teacher, editor and translator while looking to find a publisher for his first two novels —The End of the Nylon Age and one of his most famous works, The Cowards, which was written in 1948/1949. Both were banned by Communist censors after being published.
After leaving Czechoslovakia for Canada in early 1969, he continued to write while running 68 Publishers on a shoe-string budget; from 1971 to 1990, the imprint became an important outlet for dissident writers like Milan Kundera and Václav Havel — who, after becoming Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist president, in 1990 awarded Škvorecký the Order of the White Lion.