Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Danny Smiricky

Danny Smiricky (SMIH-rzhihts-kee), an eighteen-year-old jazz saxophone player in a provincial town in Czechoslovakia. As the narrator of the novel, Danny reveals that he is less concerned with the major political upheavals occurring around him during the final days of the Nazi occupation in his town in May, 1945, than with his own personal future. Infatuated with a girl named Irena, Danny fantasizes about the kinds of heroic deeds he could perform to win her heart. Arrested for a cavalier act of defiance in the face of the Nazi forces, Danny is saved from serious reprisal by Dr. Sabata, a friend of his father and an important figure in the town. Danny joins a group of young partisans, in part out of a simple desire to take possession of a gun, but the partisan unit is pressed into service as part of a newly founded local militia. Danny becomes caught up in a fleeting battle with the retreating Nazis. He then spends the day consoling Irena, who is distracted by a lack of news concerning her lover, Zdenek. Frustrated once again, Danny joins his jazz band to take part in a celebration in honor of the Soviet army, which has entered the town to replace the Germans. As the novel closes, Danny pours into his music his mingled feelings of regret over the passing of his youth and his hope for new joy with some as-yet-unknown girl in the future.


Irena, Danny’s would-be...

(The entire section is 512 words.)

The Cowards The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Danny is a self-centered young man, given to fantasies. The novel is focused so strongly on him that the other characters do not emerge with any great clarity. He lives with his parents but returns home only to sleep and to eat; otherwise, he is constantly looking for action, seeking always for something to make himself glamorous in the eyes of Irena, who remains cool to him in spite of his best efforts. Danny, in fact, seems to be an arrested adolescent whose interior reality, in spite of all the momentous events occurring around him, is stronger than any reality in the exterior world. In a rare moment of self-recognition, Danny wonders how he could be so self-absorbed during the biggest war of all time, in which millions have been killed, millions wounded, and millions more destroyed in concentration camps.

The other characters become real only when they impinge on Danny’s reality. Most vivid is Prema, the dedicated revolutionary, who has kept a heavy machine gun hidden in a cellar since 1938, when the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. His single-minded dedication is the mark against which the performance of all the other characters, including Danny, is measured. Prema’s resolve inspires Danny when the time comes to act against the Germans.

Irena is of a lower social class than Danny. Her very unattainability, both, socially and physically, makes her the ideal fantasy figure for Danny; she is the necessary focus for all of his sexual and social confusion. The stolid and powerful Zdenec, her boyfriend, is an expert mountaineer, dependable and courageous; the reader can scarcely blame Irena for preferring him to Danny.

Benno is the trumpet player in the jazz band. Rich, fat, lazy, and cowardly, his one rule is self-preservation; he lies at the other end of the scale from Prema. Benno is dominated by his girlfriend and humiliated by his peers. Like Danny, he is conscripted into the militia, but when any danger threatens, he takes to his heels. He survives the war, while brave men perish in the battles of liberation.

The Cowards Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fulford, Robert. “Another Country,” in Saturday Night. January, 1983, pp. 5-6.

Fyfe, Robert. “Bridge over the Credit,” in Brick. Winter, 1986, pp. 29-33.

Hancock, Geoff. “Interview with Josef kvorecký,” in Canadian Fiction Magazine. Nos. 45/46 (1983), pp. 63-96.

Kundera, Milan. “1968, Prague, Paris, and Josef kvorecký,” in Canadian Forum. August, 1979, pp. 6-9.

World Literature Today. LIV (Autumn, 1980). Special kvorecký issue.