Sunday, January 8, 2012

Josef Skvorecky: R.I.P.

From the International Association of Crime Writers (IACW) comes the news that crime writer and publisher Josef Skvorecky died on January 3, in Toronto. He was 87.

Josef Skvorecky was a Czech émigré writer who moved to Canada in 1969, where he taught for many years at the University of Toronto. With his wife, Zdena Salivarova,  he ran 68 Publishers, which published banned Czech works. The imprint became an important mouthpiece for dissident writers, such as Václav Havel, Milan Kundera, and Ludvík Vaculík, among many others. For providing this critical literary outlet, the president of post-Communist Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, later awarded the couple the Order of the White Lion in 1990. Skvorecky's fiction deals with several themes: the horrors of totalitarianism and repression, the expatriate experience, and the miracle of jazz.

Most of Skvorecky’s novels are available in English: The Cowards, Miss Silver's Past, The Republic of Whores, The Miracle Game, The Swell Season, The Engineer of Human Souls, The Bride of Texas, Dvorak in Love, The Tenor Saxophonist's Story, Two Murders in My Double Life, An Inexplicable Story or The Narrative of Questus Firmus Siculus. Short stories: When Eve Was Naked. Short Novels: The Bass Saxophone and Emöke.

He wrote four detective novels featuring Lieutenant Boruvka of the Prague Homicide Bureau: The Mournful Demeanor of Lieutenant Boruvka, Sins for Father Knox, The End of Lieutenant Boruvka and The Return of Lieutenant Boruvka.

His best known novel was The Engineer of Human Souls, which won the Governor-General’s Award in Canada. He also won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1980. In 1990, he won the Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada for "Humbug," in The End of Lieutenant Boruvka. In addition,  his numerous literary awards include the Canadian Governor General's Award for English Language Fiction (1984), the Czech Republic State Prize for Literature (1999) and the Prize of the Comenius Pangea Foundation “For Improvement of Human Affairs” (2001) which he received with the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1982. He was also awarded the Order of the White Lion by the President of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel, in 1990.

1 comment:

vallerose said...

Always interested in a Czech writer. Will have to look for his books. Sounds like he would be good for an international session when we do that again.