After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Niqi Thomas, a young Czech Australian woman, returns with her father to Prague, to visit her ancestral city and to discover her grandfather, who was always ‘present’ in the family, but whom she had never met – Karel Goliath-Gorovsky, the Czech Solzhenitsyn.
For Niqi, it became a journey of self-discovery, through discovery of her grandfather. A rebel from birth, Czech lawyer, Karel Goliath-Gorovsky, was imprisoned in a Soviet gulag north of the Arctic Circle, because of his relentless political idealism. His potent black humour enabled him to survive those seventeen darkest years of his political life, which spanned from the brutal excesses of Stalin to the liberating hope of Dubcek.
His son, abandoned by his father at the age of one, developed his own black humour to survive Mischling status under the Nazi occupation, the Stalinist regime in his homeland, Czechoslovakia, and flight to Australia – his new land of opportunity where some people crossed the street when they saw a ‘wog’ approaching.
This family narrative includes a subversive retake on the biblical Goliath, who appears several times through the book, connecting Goliath-Gorovsky with the biblical character, who paradoxically, was killed by his Hebrew ancestors.
Minerva’s Owl is a literary treatment of national and personal history, which explores the effect of war and displacement upon the exiled individuals and their families. Throughout this book, the continually reinforced image is of the individual standing against the juggernaut of dictatorship and bureaucracy, and resolutely refusing to fear.
A sense of dark laughter – developed as a survival mechanism – in which the choice is to laugh or die, pervades the book. In Goliath-Gorovsky’s own words: “After the tragedy a humoresque. Instead of a conclusion.”
June 2003, 312pp
Non fiction, 1st Edition
Paperback, 216 x 138 mm
ISBN: 0 9578735 6 5
RRP: $aud 24-95
The Author With formal qualifications and teaching experience in creative writing at Victorian universities, Niqi Thomas has had several short stories and poems published in literary magazines during the 1990s.
Her works have appeared in New England Review, 8d Anthology of Erotica, Centoria Poetry Magazine, Journal of the Black Rose, Hidden Agenda, STET; Australian Writers and Writing, to name only a few. Niqi lives in Melbourne. Her next book is currently being considered for publication.