Skvorecky is an exiled veteran of decades of intrigue in the Czech cultural bureaucracy. This minor novel creaks from the moment the hero, a cynical Comrade Editor, meets a beautiful dark young woman named Silver. She has a mysterious erased tattoo and a preoccupation with the editor's boss, who ditched his Jewish fiancee during hard times. Silver's final murder of the man who betrayed her elder sister to a concentration camp is unimportant and unaffecting because Skvorecky, who tends to ""laugh rather than cry at all but the worst disasters,"" as Neal Ascherson once put it, has picked a ""worst disaster"" to hang his comedy on. But even the apparatchiks' wrangles over how and whether to publish a blockbuster novel are only mechanically amusing. And, in Czech fashion, the byplay of seduction is used to underline the camaraderie of the seducers while the women remain objects, and nothing human ever takes place. Skvorecky's style is trite and trivial; the translator cannot be at fault, since he did so well with Milan Kundera's Life Is Elsewhere (KR, 1974). Skvorecky is a former scriptwriter and ""idea man."" A film might have released the scorching ironies and true jests implicit in the material.