This novel is another in the series produced by Artia, a Communist-era publishing house based out of Prague. Artia overwhelmingly favoring Czech authors, Jesenský’s book is one of only three (so far as I can tell) by Slovak authors that got translated into English. Therein lies a tale of its own.
What, exactly, was the motivation for a state-run publisher to produce English-language versions of its national literature? It takes little imagination to see the propaganda angle at work. For example, Rudolf Jašík’s St. Elizabeth’s Square recounts the horrors of growing anti-Semitism in pre-war Slovakia leading to collaboration with the Nazi occupiers, a very popular point of contrast for true-believer communists like the author—and one conveniently ignoring the totalitarian and anti-Semitic policies at work in the so-called workers’ paradise. But Jašík fit the bill so nicely that two of his novels were seen fit for wider a readership (a review of his Dead Soldiers Don’t Sing will be forthcoming) and hence comprise two-thirds of Artia’s modest Slovak translation program.
The prolific Janko Jesenský, author of The Democrats, didn’t quite have Jašík’s bonafides, but at least he had the good sense to die in 1945 after having openly expressed his opposition to fascism…Read More