Both of the following quotes are from Josef Škvorecký’s autobiographical essay “I Was Born in Náchod….”


After a brief career as right defence in a soccer minileague, I fell ill with pneumonia. This was before the days of antibiotics, and one could easily die. I very much did not want to die and promised, therefore, to say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys daily if I survived. As the days, made hazy by fever, dragged on, I kept raising the numbers until I ended up with a burden of about a hundred Our Fathers and Hail Marys per day. In the year that followed my recovery I tried to live up to the promise. For hours I knelt beside my bed, night after night, and in the morning, I looked like a child suffering from a bad hangover. This intense religiosity exhausted me so much that in another year I had another bout with pneumonia. This time I was wiser. I only vowed that, if I recovered, I would– at the age of eighteen–enter a monastery. When the deadline was approaching I postponed the day until twenty-one. A girl– two, in fact–were unwittingly involved in that decision. With my twenty-first birthday closing in on me, I shifted the date once again: to twenty-five. Eventually, it was the Communists who saved me for secular life. When they took over the country, one of their first acts of class justice was the closing down of all monasteries.


During the first four years of that Götterdämmerung I attended the local Realgymnasium… It was the Nazis who introduced the term “ideology” into our vocabulary; can anyone wonder why, ever since, I have mistrusted that word and all the varying contents it signified?