A rather innocent youthful joke (a postcard sent heralding ""Long' Live Trotsky"") metastasize bringing rejection, ostracism and failure to all concerned but in particular to its perpetrator, Ludvik Jahn. One is left ultimately with an unanswerable ""Why are we suddenly ridiculous?"" Actually this Czechoslovakian novel, told through the eyes of Ludvik and some of his associates, is a larger political parable indicating the repressive futility of life within this country since the war. And more clearly the indictment of the collective faith which ceded to corrosive rationalism Ludvik himself is sent to the mines in Siberia for a time and run out of the Party by one Pavel. Even in his later, more feverish affair with Lucie, he realizes that he has lost the ability to trust anyone and is, as a man, just as much of an outcast. The orbiting repercussions of the original trivial prank will also injure others and his defeat trails him through the years. . . . For the most part, Ludvik tells his story with a kind of regretful disengagement and defenseless resignation which by no means subdues the effectiveness and the acute projection of the spiritual loss of life behind the curtain.