Josef Škvorecký Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Josef kvorecký (shkwor-EHT-skee) has published books on jazz, such as Talkin’ Moscow Blues (1988), and films, such as All the Bright Young Men and Women: A Personal History of the Czech Cinema (1971). He also is known for publications concerning literature and politics.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

During the Communist-dominated regime in Czechoslovakia, Josef kvorecký did not receive proper recognition for his achievements, except for the Writers’ Union Annual Award for Konec nylonoveho véku in 1967. Ironically, in 1990, Czech president Václav Havel awarded the Order of the White Lion, the Czech Republic’s highest award for foreigners, to kvorecký and his wife, the former singer and actor Zdena Salivarová, for their promotion of Czech literature through their publishing firm. Most appreciation for kvorecký’s work as a writer came from his adopted home in Canada and from the United States. In 1980, the University of Oklahoma awarded him the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He received the Canadian Governor-General’s Award for best fiction in English, the first translation so honored, for The Engineer of Human Souls in 1985.

Beyond the official prizes, kvorecký has won recognition for his promotion of Czech literature. His early novels defied the Soviet insistence on Socialist Realism, and his creation of character Danny Smiricky provided Czechoslovaks with an often comic antihero, one clever enough to exist under authoritarian rule. kvorecký’s supple use of the Czech language subverts the empty communist slogans ponderously translated into Czech. He is a highly visible champion of Czech literature in speeches and written commentary, serving as a bridge between the cultures of his native and adopted countries.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Kalish, Jana. Josef kvorecký: A Checklist. Toronto: University of Toronto Library, 1986. Extremely helpful but limited to pre-1986 subject matter.

O’Brien, John, ed. “Special Issue: Mario Vargas Llosa and Josef kvorecký.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 17, no. 1 (Spring, 1997): 78-158. Contains brief but perceptive essays, a limited select bibliography, an interview with and a previously unpublished short story by kvorecký, and two essays on The Bride of Texas.

Solecki, Sam, ed. The Achievement of Josef kvorecký. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994. Concentrates on the major works and includes an essay on the literary scandal surrounding the publication of The Cowards. Extensive bibliography.

Solecki, Sam, ed. Prague Blues: The Fiction of Josef kvorecký. Toronto: ECW Press, 1990. The best starting point for a study of kvorecký. Solecki has an appreciation of kvorecký’s work and is extremely perceptive. Includes a good bibliography.

Trensky, Paul I. The Fiction of Josef kvorecký. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. A good perspective on the earlier works, with additional comments on the detective stories.