By turns hilarious, slyly wry, bittersweet, satirical, and chilling, When Eve Was Naked charts the extraordinary life of Czech-Canadian author Josef Skvorecky. In lieu of a memoir, Skvorecky here has assembled fact-based stories (written over a 50-year period) that relate the trials and foibles of the human heart, set against the backdrop of some of the most dramatic and tragic events to which the 20th century has borne witness.
The title story, "Eve Was Naked," evokes the pre-war condition of innocence in Czechoslovakia as 7-year-old Danny Smiricky, the author's alter-ego narrator, falls in love for the first time during an outing at the beach. In "My Teacher, Mr. Katz," one of several grim stories set during World War II, the boy hides as he watches his Jewish-German instructor and neighbours being herded onto a train. Other stories conjure up an atmosphere of pranksterism, cruelty, and the sleepy eroticism of unattainable love during the post-war period of totalitarianism ushered in after the February 1948 Communist coup in put an end to President Benes's democratic regime. The final, delightfully satirical stories take place in the halls of Canadian academe, where Skvorecky landed after Czechoslovakia was invaded by the other Warsaw Pact nations in 1968.
Skvorecky's gift is his ability to register sensitively how historical processes profoundly impact individuals' destinies and their relationships with one another. In that respect alone (but not only in that), this journey through the life of a remarkable writer in an age of trauma is sure to satisfy long-time readers and intrigue newcomers to the author of such masterpieces as The Engineer of Human Souls, The Cowards, and Two Murders in My Double Life. --Diana Kuprel [via]