'The Prague Orgy' by Philip RothRoth, perhaps the greatest living writer of the English language, takes us through a lurid tale in which Zuckerman, Roth’s literary alter-ego, goes in search of a missing and supposedly brilliant Yiddish manuscript.

Roth manages to capture and urgently convey the complexity of Czech society that extended beyond the Russian occupation, the Nazi occupation before that, and deeper into question of human natures that arise in repressed societies.

Zdenek Sisovky and his mistress, a fading beauty of the Czech theater, are tortured exiles who faced the dilemma of either living in their homeland in infamy as enemies of the state or living abroad as nobodies, deprived unjustly of their life.

Olga is Sisovky’s embittered wife whom Zuckerman seeks to ply the manuscript from. A thoroughly debased creature, Olga’s only expression of freedom is sex and she begs Zuckerman to take her to America.

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Zuckerman ponders the gray-faced legions of Prague who “appear to be on strike against life” and whom the President had to go on TV to ask them not to drink so much. Yet trying to elude a shadowy follower he

discovers the thrill of Prague’s magical streets. The STB get interested in Zuckerman and his mission and the encounter with the Minister of Culture illustrates the segment of the Czech population, still quite present if you ask me, that believes in acquiescence in the face of confrontation.

In one of the book’s most strikingly accurate passages the Minister of Culture furiously lectures Zuckerman about his father, “a true Czech patriot” who knew what was “possible in a little country like ours” and of others like him who knew “how to submit decently to their historical misfortune!”