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The Cowards (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 6 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141047674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141047676
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

Anyone who wants to know how it felt to be young, idealistic and innocent at the end of the war should read The Cowards (The Times Literary Supplement )

Sceptical, humourous, liberal and humane. (London Review of Books )

[The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. (Cj Schüler Independent on Sunday )

This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. (Nicholas Lezard Guardian )

I urge you to go and read them. (Adam Thirlwell New Statesman )

This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. (Stephen Vizinczey Daily Telegraph )

About the Author

Josef Skvorecky (born in 1924) was a leading Czech novelist and dissident, a key figure in keeping alive from exile a liberal, humanistic Czech culture during the Cold War. His most famous novels are The Cowards, Miss Silver's Past, The Bass Saxophone and The Engineer of Human Souls. He died in 2012, at the age of eighty-seven.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kiwifunlad on 18 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel was written in the late 1940's by a respected Czech author when aged 24. The pivotal event in the novel, set in a small town north of Prague, covers the week in the township as the Germans are leaving and the arrival of the Russians. The main character is a young man, Danny Smiricky, who is experiencing all the emotions of love, friendship and adventure during this momentous week in the history of the Czech Republic. The translation is a very readable account centering on the young men as they flex their muscles in excited anticipation of the forthcoming liberation. The novel is very good at describing various flawed characters of the township as they try to reorganise their township without the imposed control of the German occupation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Singapore Relic on 1 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent translation of a really interesting (originally banned)Skvorecky book. The short period, in May 1945, when a Czech town switches from Nazi to Soviet control is an amazing setting for a tale based around a 22 year-old lad keen on his saxophone and any pretty girl walking by. There are so many "normal" characters caught up in a very dangerous, threatening situation. Mention is made of executions, released POWs and Concentration Camp survivors and, of course, bitter fighting - but it is almost as if the sax player is playing an improvisation "in honour of victory .. this town and all its pretty girls, and in honour of a great, abysmal, eternal, foolish, lovely love". I found the stylization gripping.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lucie Novák on 3 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
He was persecuted by the Communist government for this book about the end of WW2 in a small Czech town. The book is funny, moral but full of healthy cynicism, a snippet of non heroic past so common in Europe in that time. Heros are rare .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Zbabelci 6 Oct. 1998
By Miriam Fitting (fitting@w-link.net) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This semi-autobiographical novel is the first in a series by Czech-cum-Canadian author Josef Skvorecky that charts the life of Danny Smiricky, a Czech sometimes-saxophonist and full-time womanizer. The story opens during WWII in German-occupied Kostelec, a town not far from Prague. The way Smiricky tells it, the war and the occupation are minor hardships and major bores; what really matters is the pursuit of his two true loves: jazz and women. Like most egotistical men, Danny is most charming in his youth, and this novel displays him at his finest. His exchanges with friends and musings on the unattainable Irena are entertaining, and his rhapsodies on a solo with his jazz band and the fit of the ever-tantalizing Mitza's uniform go even further to make up for long stretches of disaffected self-indulgence. As a portrait of everyday life during wartime, the novel is excellent. Skvorecky captures the sort of daily details that bring a historical event to life in an intimate and personal way. One just wishes that the main character didn't block the view quite so often.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The farce of patriotism 12 Jan. 2003
By IVAN JIMENEZ CORREAL - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the several novels by Joseph Skvorecky which presents the daily life of his alter ego Daniel Smiricky. "The Cowards" is not about coward people, it is about local people in the small town of Kostelec (north Bohemian Nachod)whose aim is to survive living their ordinary lives in the last days of the Nazi Protectorate, seven days of May, from the fourth to the eleventh May 1945. The Germans are quickly withdrawing from the Eastern front as fast as the Red Army advances towards Central Europe, while the people of Kostelec prepare a "revolution" against the Nazi opressors to welcome finally the Soviet troops who will "liberate" them.
The main intention of the author, from my point of view, is to remark that both the revolution and the liberation are a complete farce, that History, as written in books, is a great deal of falsified propaganda. Danel Smiricky and his friends of the jazz band are by no means interested in heroic feats nor care about patriotism but about girls and music.
But Skvorecky gives a moving view of his characters and events, an intimate vision, tender, dramatic, satyrical, funny, critical, full of humour and nostalgia, as only Czech writers can, because I have always found that Czech writers have the incredible ability to combine the trivial with the deep, the ordinary with the remarkable, the comical with the dramatic, the harsh with the tender.
Of course, this novel, being one of the earliest by Skvorecky, lacks the maturity of "The Engineer of Human Souls"; nevertheless, it is worth while to read it and realize that nothing is what it seems and that History is subject to countless manipulations.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A small town outside Prague in 1945, 1 Nov. 2010
By Kiwifunlad - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This novel was written in the late 1940's by a respected Czech author when aged 24. The pivotal event in the novel, set in a small town north of Prague, covers the week in the township as the Germans are leaving and the arrival of the Russians. The main character is a young man, Danny Smiricky, who is experiencing all the emotions of love, friendship and adventure during this momentous week in the history of the Czech Republic. The translation is a very readable account centering on the young men as they flex their muscles in excited anticipation of the forthcoming liberation. The novel is very good at describing various flawed characters of the township as they try to reorganise their township without the imposed control of the German occupation.
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