canada as bliss


Like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, Márquez’s Macondo, and Hardy’s Wessex, Škvorecký’s Kostelec is a grand recreation of his own town, a decidedly minor place to outward appearances, yet rich enough to its creator. I asked Škvorecky why he has returned to the past in Kostelec across the decades of his writing. “Because when you are a teenager, everything appears as new,” he said. “Your impressions are much stronger. Falling in love, for instance. I fell in love with my first girl when I was in prima, the first grade in an eight-grade gymnasium. A new girl came to our town, whom I later called Irene [in my fiction]. It was as if God had switched on a brilliant lamp in the skies above our drab wartime world.”

That the past remains as vivid and locally contained as it does for Škvorecký suggests the author’s strongest, most evident literary influence. As a reader, translator, and novelist, he explained, he “fell under the spell of what I used to call Faulkner’s white magic. I realized that what he wrote about was the content of the mind, the inner life of folks who might appear as very simple but, in fact, inside were as complex as people of high education.” He also admired Faulkner’s “stylistic fireworks,” and “the admixture of pop literature” — like detective and pulp fiction — one finds in his otherwise densely modernist work. Škvorecký has himself written or co-written (with Salivarová) a series of detective novels, and he explained the odd circumstances of his first reading the genre.

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