An Inexplicable Story, Or, the Narrative of Questus Firmus Siculus by Josef Skvorecky

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Synopsis

In an urn, sealed in the wall of an ancient Central American tomb, the burial chamber of the Mayan king K'inich Yax K'uk'Mo, a mysterious manuscript has been found. The archaeologists who find it are perplexed. The scroll is in Latin, and it is older than the 1,600-year-old tomb itself. It is the 'Narrative of Questus,' a Roman who lived in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Augustus. According to Patrick O. Enfield, the scholar entrusted with the task of translating and commenting on this spectacular find, there can be no doubt of its authenticity. The manuscript is subjected to 'every available test and to detailed linguistic scrutiny.' It is not a hoax. Although the scroll is damaged, it can be read, and it draws a detailed picture of the childhood and youth of the author. Questus is 19, an aspiring inventor who would like to create marvelous new machines for the Imperial army. His father is a remote figure, a military commander who is usually away on campaign. His mother, however, is anything but remote. Still young and delightfully pretty, she is a favourite of the Emperor and also of the poet Ovid (as a child Questuscalled him 'Uncle Ovid'). Ovid's The Art of Love has just been published, and the young diarist and his friends scrutinize it for sexual secrets, hidden meanings and scandal. Slowly, Questus realizes that one of those secrets involves his own mother...
 

About Josef Skvorecky

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One of the foremost Czech writers of the postwar generation, Skvorecky is the author of five novels and many filmscripts and the translator into Czech of William Faulkner (see Vol. 1), Ernest Hemingway (see Vol. 1), and Dashiell Hammett (see Vol. 1). His first novel, The Cowards (1958), took an unorthodox look at the events of May 1945 when Czechoslovakia was liberated from the Nazis. The novel was, in its author's words, a succes scandale. In spite of a ban by the party, The Cowards circulated underground and exerted a powerful influence on young Czech writers before the political thaw set in. Miss Silver's Past was the last of his books to appear in Czechoslovakia, where it was published in 1969. The Tank Corps, which should have appeared the same year, was banned. Skvorecky left Czechoslovakia in 1968 and now teaches at the University of Toronto.He also publishes books of Czech emigre writers. In 1980 he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
 
Published January 1, 2002 by Key Porter. 182 pages
Genres: . Fiction