Jun 18, 2015 7:00 PM
Innocence or Murder on Steep Street
A crime novel by renowned Holocaust memoirist depicting a chilling moment in history, showing the stifling atmosphere of political and personal oppression of the early days of Socialist Czechoslovakia.
Alex Zucker, the books translator, will be present to discuss the work.
Alex is an award-winning translator of Czech literature. He also works in editing and nonprofit communications, and currently serves as co-chair of the PEN America.
The book was published by the author when she was living in exile from her native Czechoslovakia. Heda Margolius Kovály survived both Auschwitz and Stalinist Czechoslovakia. Her husband, who survived Dachau was part of the Jewish Intelligentsia that established Communism in Czechoslovakia. He would later be detained and murdered after the infamous ‘Slansky’ show trial –which he had helped to create. Heda was branded as the wife of a ‘political traitor’ and lived in an atmosphere of oppression as she tried to earn a meager living for herself and her son. She worked as a translator and Memoirist. By translating Raymond Chandler’s work she was inspired to write her own book that became a psychological detective thriller.
The book is set in a cinema where a murder was recently been committed and through the ensuing investigation we hear the stories of the women working in the environment who support themselves in difficult circumstances. When the detective is slain many secrets come to light.
Kovály first published the book under a pseudonym, Helen Novakova (her main character) as she wanted to protect her friends and associates who might have been badly affected by it’s critical content.
What the critics said:
“Double lives, secrets,
informers, microdots, and above all, lies . . Set in post-war Prague, a
repressive political maze, Innocence is a must-read, a psychological drama
played out in crystal prose. Not only did Heda Margolius Kovály write an
emotionally wrenching tale, she lived it during the 1950s Communist state. ”
“This is an extraordinary memoir, so heartbreaking that I have
reread it for months, unable to rise to the business of ‘reviewing’ less a book
than a life repeatedly outraged by the worst totalitarians in Europe. Yet it is
written with so much quiet respect for the minutiae of justice and truth that
one does not know where and how to specify Heda Kovály’s splendidness as a
—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW ON CRUEL STAR
“Given thirty seconds to recommend a single book that might
start a serious young student on the hard road to understanding the political
tragedies of the twentieth century, I would choose this one. ”
—CLIVE JAMES, CULTURAL AMNESIA ON CRUEL STAR
“One of the outstanding autobiographies of the century. ”
—SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE ON CRUEL STAR
“A masterpiece of memoir still awaiting its due.”
—THE AMERICAN INTEREST ONCRUEL STAR
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Jun 18, 2015 7:00 PM