January 29, 1979 12:00 PM

by Josef Skvorecký

The two novellas in this book—one on a frustrating romance at a Czech resort, the other on a Fellini-esque German band touring Nazi-occupied Europe—are striking. But even greater fascination lies in the preface by Skvorecký, a Czech who emigrated after the 1968 Soviet invasion and now teaches at the University of Toronto. Intrigued by the liberating force of jazz and by attempts to repress it, he cites a formal list of Nazi rules for dance bands that forbade ” ‘Negroid excesses in tempo’ (so-called hot jazz)” and” ‘Jewishly gloomy lyrics.’ ” After the war Dixieland became popular, inspiring such groups as the Prague City Stompers, and the Communist bureaucracy warned of a plot to “smuggle Western decadence into the minds of our workers.” When Skvorecký left, Czech authorities were cracking down on rock fans in the undrooshy—a Czech version of “underground.” (Knopf, $8.95)

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