cover image Dvorak in Love

Dvorak in Love

Josef Skvorecky. Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95 (322pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54681-0

A foreigner's love affair with America is the central subject of this engaging new novel by the expatriate Czechoslovakian author ( The Bass Saxophone. In an elliptical style familiar to readers of his previous books, Skvorecky builds a polyphonic account of the famous composer's two trips to the United States in the 1890s, orchestrated by the sharply individual voices of various Americans who met him. The result is an affectionate yet not uncritical portrait of a raw, often brutal country that nonetheless offers previously undreamed-of opportunities to the immigrants who have arrived on its shores. Dvorak'sand Skvorecky'spassionate love for black American music makes him sharply aware of the terrible injustices the U.S. has still not redressed, but the novel's conclusion seems to be that personal initiative and creativity will someday defeat the forces of racism and oppression. This is perhaps not quite as major an effort as the magnificent Engineer of Human Souls, but Skvorecky's warm humanism and robust appreciation of ordinary people's unique individuality are as appealing as ever. (February 11)