The Miracle Game (Magill Book Reviews)
Originally published in Czech in 1972 by the author’s own Canadian-based 68 Publishers (an important outlet for Czech writing prior to the bloodless overthrow of the Communist government in 1989), THE MIRACLE GAME is part detective story, part history lesson, and part satirical romp, a dissident as well as dissonant work which freely and cheerfully transgresses literary, temporal, and spatial borders. Covering twenty years and two continents, the novel centers on two times and places. There are the two years during which young Danny Smiricky, the hero of four other Skvorecky novels, teaches at a school in provincial Hronov, recovering from a bad case of clap, fending off the sexual advances of a seventeen-year-old student, and trying not to run afoul of Party policies, and there is the heady period of the Prague Spring of 1968 and its immediate aftermath, when Danny, now a writer of operettas, detective stories, and one unpublished satirical novel, carries on love affairs, observes purges and counter-purges, and becomes involved in his Catholic friend Juzl’s efforts to uncover the facts behind a miracle at Hrovna twenty years before—a miracle which Danny would have witnessed had he not been half-asleep at the time.
Such a summary does not begin to do justice to the intricacy of Skvorecky’s fascinating, many-stranded novel. For all its breadth and shifting narrative focus, the novel never does explain the mystery of the miracle which becomes...
(The entire section is 463 words.)
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The Miracle Game (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
The Miracle Game (first published in 1972 as Mirákl) takes its title from a controversial event that occurs in 1949 in the little Czech town of Hronov: During Sunday service at the Chapel of the Virgin Mary under Mare’s Head, a statue of Saint Joseph bows to the congregation. As miracles go, this one hardly ranks with the parting of the Red Sea, but in a small town in a small Communist country it generates much excitement. A wayfaring stranger wearing a rucksack bolts from the building, the old ladies in the audience fly into a frenzy, and Vixi Koziskova thinks Saint Joseph is pointing the finger of guilt at her for sleeping with her social sciences instructor the night before. The young instructor, one Danny Smiricky, hung over and recovering from a bout of gonorrhea (contracted elsewhere), nods off and misses the whole event.
Did a miracle occur? Yes, says the priest (Father Josef Doufal) and his congregation as they go marching about the town shouting hosannas. No, says the Communist regime, whose investigative team quickly exposes the priest’s hidden set of pulleys and arrests him. There seems, however, to be some confusion about whether the pulleys are rigged to the statue of Saint Joseph or to the statue of the Virgin Mary (after all, it is her chapel). Did the communist regime plan the whole thing in an effort to discredit religion and then botch the job? Or…or…or did a miracle occur? Why did that stranger wearing a...
(The entire section is 1773 words.)