The short story “panta rei” by Josef Skvorecky encompasses the maturation of a nameless musician in the Czech Republic before, during, and after World War Two. It is a coming of age tale under the backdrop of war and corruption, and follows two examples of the unrelenting continuation of life. The story expresses this theme that life goes on, and like a river does not stop flowing, through events in the lives of the musician and a reporter. “panta rei” is narrated by the saxophone player, and while he loses both of his parents and second family tragically as a direct result of their political outspokenness, he spends more time discussing his observations of a reporter, whom is present at three separate points in his life (Skvorecky 376-377). At each point, the reporter’s appearance and ideologies diverge, particularly at the end of the story, wherein she switches from opposing to actively supporting communism (Skvorecky 380). The musician however, becomes less vocal as his life progresses, likely from the trauma of losses in childhood and as an adult (Skvorecky 376, 379). Both main characters are forced to endure harrowing circumstances, and Skvorecky intertwines their complicated lives within a short narrative. This strengthens the story as it provides a multi-layered meaning in the narrative, but, can also weaken it as the reader does not have time to comprehend the weight of significant events. Overall, “panta rei” is a captivating, and enlightening piece of literature that is recommendable to a wide spectrum of audiences.
Works Cited: Skvorecky, Josef. “panta rei.” Short Fiction An Anthology: Second Edition. Ed. Levene, Mark, and Rosemary Sullivan. Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.