The novel begins in Czechoslovakia in the 60's at the funeral of the chief of state. The narrator flashes back and forth from the resistance movement, the Communist revolution, and its consolidation. All the characters labor under a symbolic burden. The dead man represents the corruption and decay of the revolutionary spirit; the narrator, a photographer, embodies East European self-examination through an ""unretouched"" view of the past. Mnacko puts a non-Marxist stress on the fallibility of human nature and the universal dangers of power. Yet his portrait Of New Class life and the theme of purger-purged imply, not anti-Communism, but a revulsion against Stalinism as it felt on the giving and receiving ends--an indictment of an insecure elite's growing contempt for the masses. Despite inevitable comparisons with Pasternak and Tertz, the author (a top CzeCh Party member) is writing primarily for his countrymen; here the importance of the book will be diminished by its tendency to prosiness, and also the rather stilted translation.