The Cowards (1958) is Josef Skvorecky's blackly comic tale of post-war politics that was immediately banned on publication. In 1945, in Kostelec,Danny is playing saxophone for the best jazz band in Czechoslovakia. Their trumpeter has just got out of a concentration camp, their bass player is only allowed in the band since he owns the bass, and the love of Danny's life is in love with somebody else. But Danny despairs most about the bourgeoisie patriots in his town playing at revolution in the face of the approaching Red Army - not least because it ruins the band's chance of any good gigs.
Josef Skvorecky (born in 1924) was a leading Czech novelist and dissident, a key figure in keeping alive from exile a liberal, humanistic Czech culture during the Cold War. His most famous novels are The Cowards, Miss Silver's Past, The Bass Saxophone and The Engineer of Human Souls. He died in 2012, at the age of eighty-seven.