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.