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494 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 others). Smotrych is reminiscent of Shevchenko, who lamented the fate of a Ukraine under Russian domination in every sphere. His poetry is written from the perspective of a man whose world-view has been shaped by the searing memory of the famine of the 1930s. He is saved from being labelled a 'typical right-wing chauvinist' by his true artistic gift: whatever one's political views, one cannot help but be moved by his torment, his conviction, and his bitterness. There are other facets to Smotrych, like irony and satire: witness his picture of the Ukrainian transplanted to Canada, creating his own 'Little Ukraine' in New Toronto (!) or his freshly handled image of the American everywhere stuffing his face with hamburgers. There are echoes (and reworkings and transformations) in Smotrych's poems of themes not only from Shevchenko but from Blok and Shakespeare (as when Smotrych turns what sounds like a paean to a dead hero inside out and makes of it a diatribe against Stalin). It is to be hoped that, now that Smotrych has again begun publishing, there will not be another lengthy hiatus until his next works appear. Finally, no review of books on Ukrainian themes published recently would be complete without mentioning Myrna Kostash's All of Baba's Children (Edmonton: Hurtig 1977), which has been on the Canadian best-seller list for some weeks. Kostash has written a very provocative book in which she attempts to explore her relationship to her Ukrainian heritage. What results is a distorted picture of the character, history, and culture of Ukrainians in Canada based on the author's familiarity with only a small element of this diverse group, an interest in random episodes in its history, and, at best, a superficial knowledge of certain facets of its folk art and customs. Despite its all too obvious weaknesses, the book should be read, and Kostash is to be commended, iffor no other reason than for having raised the issue of ethnicity. 2 / YVONNE GRABOWSKI The most outstanding work in a Slavic language other than Ukrainian published in 1977 is The Bass Saxophone by Joseph Skvorecky (Toronto: Hugh Anson Cartwright Editions), which includes two novellas translated by Kaca Polackova-Henley. The two pieces contained in this volume are superb works by one of the great masters of the Czechoslovak literary revival, which ended abruptly with Alexander Dubcek's downfall. Emiike was published in Czechoslovakia in 1963 and The Saxophone Player in 1967. Skvorecky, who emigrated to Canada after the Soviet intervention of 1968, is now a professor of English at Erindale College. His works are gradually being translated into English. The best of them are the two novels, TheCowards, banned in his native country for PUllLlCATIONS IN OTHER LANGUAGES I 2 495 political reasons in 1958, and Miss Silver's Past, published in Czechoslovakia in 1969, and translated into English not long ago. lt is to be hoped that more of his works will reach the Canadian public, since Skvorecky is a novelist of the first rank whose works deserve to be better known. This excellent translation brings out the unique linguistic flavour of the two novellas, without losing the intense quality of the highly gripping style so peculiar to Skvorecky. The two novellas are preceded by a biographical sketch in which Skvorecky voices his long professed beliefs that all dictatorships, whether of the right or left, are despicable. Totalitarian regimes hate art, which for Skvorecky is a basic yearning for life. When they attempt to control art, the essential human life force, it goes underground and becomes a spontaneous protest. Skvorecky's interest in jazz is of lon.g standing, since like the narrator of the second story he used to play the saxophone in a band. To him jazz is a powerful form of mass art, which, under conditions of life in Eastern Europe, becomes an even more powerful form of mass protest. Skvorecky delights in stressing similarities between the Nazi and Stalinist regimes, and his persistent mordant attempts in this direction made his life increasingly difficult in his native Czechoslovakia and finally forced him to leave. In the two novellas Skvorecky uses his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 494-500
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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