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.)