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Josef Škvorecký: Lvíce (Miss Silver’s Past)

Originally called Miss Silverstein’s Past in translation and The Lion Cub in the original Czech, the novel was originally banned and then, in 1969 at the end of the Dubček period, it was published but banned again. Miss Silver is Lenka Silver. She and Karel, the narrator-hero, rescue Karel’s friend, Vasek, from drowning. Karel, of course, falls in love with her and unceremoniously dumps his girlfriend, Vera (though he keeps sneaking back when things do not work out with Lenka.) Karel works for a publishing company, where the main activity seems to be keeping politically correct Communist-style and admiring the breasts of the female staff. Most of the book is about the activities in the publishing house, which Škvorecký mildly satirizes and Karel’s pursuit of Lenka. But, as the original title, shows, there is another plot, namely the treatment of Jews, both during the war and at the time of the novel. Both Lenka and Karel’s boss have a hidden past and, eventually, these pasts clash. But you get the feeling that the main thing for Karel (and for Škvorecký) is whether he can get Lenka into bed.

Publishing history

First published in Czech by Ceskoslovenský spisovatel 1969
First published in English by Grove Press 1974