The Miracle Game

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Prague Spring of 1968 and its immediate aftermath, when Danny, now a writer of operettas, detective stories, and one unpublished satirical novel, carries on love affairs, observes purges and counter-purges, and becomes involved in his Catholic friend Juzl’s efforts to uncover the facts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.)