Ján Johanides

Ján Johanides (1934–2008) was one of the most original writers of Slovak and Czechoslovak postwar literature. Born in northern Slovakia, he studied art history and aesthetics at Comenius University in Bratislava and subsequently worked as a company psychologist in a television manufacturing plant, as an administrator of the Slovak Writers’ Union, in the culture department of the Bratislava city administration, and at the Institute of Art Criticism and Theatre Documentation. After 1972, he lived in the southwestern Slovak town of Šaľa, where he devoted his time to his literary career. A prolific author, he published over 20 novels, novellas and short story collections between 1963 and 2005, garnering awards and critical acclaim for his psychologically incisive and stylistically accomplished works. But Crime Does Punish (Trestajúci zločin, 1995) is one several books written after the Velvet Revolution, in which he grappled with the painful legacy of the country’s totalitarian past. It is the first book by Ján Johanides to appear in an English translation.

The But Crime Does Punish is cast as a monologue of an aging archivist addressed to a visitor. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the narrator, who can’t seem to stay on topic, has both a tragic history and the key to unlocking the darkest secret of his interlocutor’s family, a secret that may or may not involve the Czechoslovak secret police, American and Soviet intelligence, Israeli politics, and a tire full of dollars. Set after the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, But Crime Does Punish is awash with paranoia, revealing how the madness of the Communist era continues to bleed into the instability of the present. Written
in 1995, this haunting novel, the first work of Slovak fiction published by Karolinum Press, evokes the spirit of John le Carré and the style of Carlos Fuentes while illuminating issues that still plague post-Communist Europe.

But Crime Does Punish was published by Karolinum Press, Pregue, in June 2022