Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Cowards (Penguin Modern Classics)” as Want to Read:
The Cowards (Penguin Modern Classics)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Cowards (Danny Smiřický)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  521 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Girls, jazz, politics, the golden dreams and black comedy of youth--these are the compelling ingredients of The Cowards.

May 1945, a small town in Czechoslovakia.The Germans are withdrawing.The Red Army is advancing.And Danny Smiricky is being forced to grow up fast.Observing with contempt the antics of the town's citizens playing it safe, he adopts the role first of reluct
...more
Published (first published 1958)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Cowards, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Cowards

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,045)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Caroline
We got to the bridge. I looked up at Irena’s window and hoped she was watching, but she wasn’t. Naturally. She should see me now. But no such luck. I could already imagine fighting the Germans off in the woods and Irena hiding down in the cellar or somewhere. The whole thing lost all its charm if Irena couldn’t see me. Why in hell was I letting myself in for this?

This book could have a lot of titles, among them ‘The Confused’ or ‘Teenage Testosterone’ or ‘Life Goes On’. But ‘The Cowards’ is the
...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 30, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in WWII in Czechoslovakia
Shelves: czech-lit


Although Skvorecky has written half a dozen novels that I like more than the Cowards, it still has tremendous merits. Nothing is more dangerous for civilians than a retreat which involves a moving front. The retreating army is nervous and trigger happy which results in civilian deaths. The advancing army is also scared and armed which means that civilians get killed. Individuals on both sides of the conflict use the confusion to settle scores.

In the Cowards, Skvorecky looks at one type of the n
...more
Bětka
Škvorecký zjevně není mým šálkem čaje. Nebavilo mě to číst, i když to nebylo tak hrozné, jak jsem se bála. Pár scén bylo fajn (nejakčnější scéna předposlední den, ubytovávání Angličanů, některé civilní momenty s Dannyho slečnami), něco mě docela vtáhlo do knihy. Ale jako celek nic pro mě. Nevím proč, proud myšlenek mi většinou nevadí. Možná mi nesedly postavy (přitom Danny byl docela fajn a Pápen/Benno taky)? Styl vyprávění? Téma? Fakt nevím. Rozhodně se mi ale do dalších Škvoreckého próz zrovna ...more
Marti Martinson
This book was given to me as a gift from the mother of my Intern/Student roommate from the Czech Republic. The author provided his very own Preface, or Forward, so I will not even begin to dissect this book on a formal or ontological level. I will only say that the characters, the dialogue, and the situations drove me to such deep care that I was dreading an horrific demise of the main character of Danny. His fascination with getting a sub-machine gun (this was the ending of WW2) drove me crazy; ...more
Rob Ward
(Czech edition)

I stalled on this book for a long time. I think it fell between stools since I wasn't quite reading it purely for pleasure (I started out reading the Czech and English translation beside each other to see exactly what tack the translator had taken in dealing with the various ways the two languages differ), and neither was I reading it for an particular project I was working on. It tended consistently to lose out to other books I was reading at the time, both Czech and English. For
...more
Quanti
Buď jsem na tuhle knížku moc mladá (tj. nezažila jsem ani válku, ani komunistické represe), nebo moc stará, protože nedokážu ocenit páskovství hlavního hrdiny. Danny mi lezl upřímně na nervy, hlavně ve chvílích jeho přemítání o lásce a o sobě samém, a možná to vyzní povýšeně, ale já (ani nikdo z mých kamarádů, co můžu posoudit) takhle povrchní zkrátka nebyla ani ve třinácti. Samotný Dannyho pohled na revoluční události jsem si ale přečetla se zájmem, období druhé světové je svého druhu můj koníč ...more
Michal Z Michle
Potom sem se jí zeptal: "Zý sind ajne luftwafehilfefrauenfunkršýlerin?" jenže sem to nemoh vyslovit, a ona se zasmála a řekla: "Jawól -" a v tý chvíli sem si umínil, že si s ní něco začnu. Já nevím, třeba vám to je proti srsti, jak vám to tady vypravuju, že sem si klidně namlouval Němku a lidi zatím umírali v koncentrácích, ale jednak, koukejte, bůhví co kdo dělal, a jednak s Němcema já se taky vůbec nebavil, ale tohle byla hezká holka a krom toho já pojal úmysl, že jí svedu a pak jí nechám, a t ...more
Lucie Novak
This book was criticised for " betraying the heroism of Czechs in the war" by the communist regime. Well, most people are not heroes. This is warm,as well as cynical, funny as well as sad, the experience of a small Czech town at the end of WW2. AN experience many Europeans had. It is a war book with a difference.
Patrick
In The Cowards, Skovrecky's first novel, his 20-year-old alter ego Danny Smiricky delivers a stream of consciousness account of the last week of WWII in a small town in Bohemia near the German border. Fittingly for one his age, Danny mostly obsesses about jazz and girls, with enthusiasm for both and a fair dollop of self-pity regarding his luck with the latter, but the larger fate of the people in his town and Europe as a whole intrudes as the week progresses and the front draws nearer to the to ...more
Catriona Troth

We were all sitting over at the Port Arthur and Benno said, ‘Well, it looks like the revolution’s been postponed for a while.’
‘Yes,’ I said and stuck the reed in my mouth. ‘For technical reasons, right?’

I happened to have been searching out Czech literature written behind the Iron Curtain recently, which is how I stumbled across The Cowards.
Set in the final week of the Second World War, The Cowards tells the story of Danny, saxophonist in the best jazz band in Czechoslovakia. Danny has grown up
...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Oh well, it seems like after being done with Czechoslovakia as seen by Marius S. I had to go straight to a Czech novel wrote by an author mentioned several times in Gottland.
But this is just a coincidence. For The Cowards was already with me for a few months.

This novel is written in a very impulsive and passionate style with that sort of boyish impetuosity which is explained by the fact Skvorecky was only 24 when he delivered it. The fact that it took 12 years more for this novel to get publishe
...more
Jdu FFH
The end of World War II, its final days, is the most chaotic period in the whole 20th century in Europe. Armies, POWs, concentration-camp-escapees roam across the continent, headed for the Rhine, PRague, Berlin or just home. Skvorecky describes the chaos in a Czech provincial border town, whose inhabitants change sides as soon as they know which is the next army that passes through town. All the while, the main character conscribes to the local army, figths the nazis, plays jazz in a band and fa ...more
Lysergius
Interesting in parts, but I found Danny's obsession with Irena and his general failure to comprehend what was going on around him disconcerting. Too many pages filled with Danny's somewhat vapid internal monologue. Not bad for a first novel though...
Monica
I really did enjoy this novel written by a 24 years old in the very last days of the WW2 in Czechoslovakia (novel is set in a week in 1945 and written in 1948), with uncertainty hanging in the air, with the banality of evil and the change over from Nazis occupation to the arrival of the Red Army. It felt there was a lot of maturity in the voice of the main character mixed with an uncertain optimism and very real desires for the things that really did matter: jazz, music and girls. Reminiscent of ...more
Michal
Vynikající. Občas se mi zdálo, že se děj trochu točí v kruhu, ale zachycení teenagerovské psychiky velmi sugestivní. Jak je všechno smíchané - holky, saxofon, hrdinství - hlavně holky!
Aron
Beautifully written, charming and funny. It's as much a coming-of-age for Danny, the narrator, as it is for a small Eastern European country an it's people.
Pavel
Poslední dny 2. světové války na českém maloměstě.
Velké dějiny a malé osudy. Malí hrdinové a velcí zbabělci. Konec něčeho, co nebylo nic moc, ale uměli jsme v tom chodit. Začátek něčeho nového, co trochu vítáme a trochu se toho bojíme.
Je to hodně živé - když končil socialismus, nešlo sice o život, ale prožíval jsem to hodně podobně (včetně té "hormonální" části).
Bob
Josef Skvorecky’s groundbreaking novel of he last days of the Nazi Protectorate of Czechoslovakia. Danny Smiricky is as concerned with woman and jazz as he is with the departure of the defeated Nazis and the advancing Soviet army. Still, there is no way to avoid the political absurdities that are just around the corner.
Andrew
really good book. it was interesting to hear about what things were like following wwii in small town czech republic. the book opens with a quote from hemingway, and you can tell the author is very influenced by him. not a difficult read, but not a quick read either
Ania
Engaging and absorbing. A good way to learn what the Czech revolution may have been like, and one of the most readable 'war' novels i've ever picked up.
Creag
Start here to better understand the Czech situation today - Skvorecky's first novel, better than most give him credit for IMO.
Freckles
Vzdávám to. Není to hrozné, ale strašně, štrašlivě mě to nebaví :( A nemám teď čas se s něčím trápit...
Dáša Beníšková
Má první láska od Škvoreckého. Jedna z nejdůležitějších knih mého života.
Elizabeth
Catcher in the Rye meets Carch 22!
Kevin Tole
Not his best but an easy read
Alessia Caiazza
Alessia Caiazza marked it as to-read
Aug 26, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 34 35 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Smrt krásných srnců
  • Spalovač mrtvol
  • The Devil's Workshop
  • Prague Tales (Central European Classics)
  • Saturnin
  • Povídky z jedné kapsy
  • Kytice
  • Dům o tisíci patrech
  • Closely Watched Trains
  • Romeo, Julie a tma
  • Fimfárum
  • Báječná léta pod psa
  • Krysař
  • May
  • My Happy Days In Hell

Other Books in the Series

Danny Smiřický (5 books)
  • The Republic of Whores
  • The Miracle Game
  • The Engineer of Human Souls
  • Two Murders in My Double Life
Children of the Holocaust (Jewish Lives) Diamonds of the Night  Darkness Casts No Shadow Dita Saxova

Share This Book

“A person's got to be scared all the time - of God, if there is one, and of looking like a fool if there isn't.” 1 likes
More quotes…