(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Farewell Party is divided into five sections corresponding to the five consecutive days during which the action takes place. “First Day” begins with a phone call from Ruzena, a nurse at a health spa, to Klima, a popular jazz trumpeter in Prague, telling him that she is pregnant and that he is the father. (They spent an intimate two hours together some months before, when his band gave a concert at the spa.) The members of Klima’s all-male band offer various sympathetic theories on how to deal with the situation. For example, the young guitarist volunteers to run her over with his car:

“Why dillydally? She’s a bitch!”“No. You’re an awfully decent fellow. Thanks. But it won’t work,” said Klima.

Finally Klima decides to curry favor with Ruzena by pretending that he loves her, after which he can persuade her to have an abortion. Meanwhile, bringing flowers, he lies to his suspicious wife, Kamila, about having to attend a conference at the spa the next day—her birthday.

“Second Day” begins with Klima arriving at the spa and consulting his friend Bartleff, a rich American. Bartleff advises him to try to understand Ruzena and be kind, but he agrees to support Klima’s abortion plan by enlisting the aid of Dr. Skreta, the physician who runs the spa. The chummy Skreta cooperates, but for a price: Klima and Ruzena must appear before the local abortion commission to seek official approval, and Klima must agree to perform in concert the night before with Skreta and the pharmacist, amateur drummer and pianist, respectively. Now only Ruzena’s agreement is lacking.

Klima wines and dines Ruzena, but she says that she will never have an abortion. Then Klima takes her for a drive in his expensive car and dangles before her the prospect of divorce (his), remarriage (to her), and a long honeymoon in Italy. Ruzena changes her mind about the abortion, and everything seems set. A slight complication, however, appears on the scene: an angry motorcyclist (actually Franta, Ruzena’s jealous boyfriend) who confronts them and seems strangely familiar with Ruzena....

(The entire section is 902 words.)