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Great Authors of Our Time - Josef Skvorecky
Josef Skvorecky was born in 1924 in the Czech town of Náchod. During the Second World War, he spent two years as a slave labourer in a German aircraft factory.

After the war, Skvorecky studied at Charles University in Prague where he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy (1952). His first novel, The Cowards (written in 1948-49, published in 1958), caused a national scandal. It was immediately condemned by the communists, banned, and confiscated. A major purge of Czech intellectuals followed, and Skvorecky was fired from his job as editor of World Literature. Over the next ten years, he continued to publish his books only as the constantly changing political climate allowed.

After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Russian-led Warsaw Pact countries in 1968, Skvorecky and his wife, writer-actress Zdena Salivarova, emigrated to Canada. They were stripped of their citizenship and the writer's name was erased from the country's official literary history. The writer taught American Literature at the University of Toronto until his retirement in 1990.

In 1971, he and his wife co-founded the 68 Publishers, which over a twenty-year period published more than 200 literary manuscripts smuggled out of Czechoslovakia and books by exiled Czech and Slovak authors. For their important contribution, Vaclav Havel, the president of the post-Communist Czech Republic, awarded them the Order of the White Lion. In 1992, Skvorecky was appointed to the Order of Canada. He also received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (1980) and the Governor General's Award for Best Fiction (1984, for The Engineer of Human Souls).

Most of his books are available in English. They include Miss Silver's Past, The Miracle Game, The Swell Season, The Bride of Texas, The Tenor Saxophonist's Story, The Bass Saxophone, and Emöke. He has also written four books of detective fiction, among them The Sorrows of Lieutenant Boruvka, several volumes of short stories, and some non-fiction, including Talkin' Moscow Blues (a book of essays on jazz, literature, and politics) and two books on Czech cinema. His most recent works are a memoir with ten stories, Headed for the Blues, and a novel in Czech, Narratio Questi. This year, his first novel written in English, Two Murders in My Double Life, was published by Key Porter Books.

Skvorecky has written extensively for film and television as well. The hit movie, The Tank Battalion, adapted from his novel, The Republic of Whores, was the first Czech film made by a private company.

He resides permanently in Toronto with his wife.


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