The found manuscript, whose published translation makes up the first part of the novel, purports to provide the answer to one of literary history's greatest unsolved mysteries: Why was Ovid banished from Rome by Augustus Caesar, and what was his subsequent fate? But the scrolls' deteriorated condition means that their editor, P.O. Enfield, can offer only educated guesses. His commentaries on the various editions, as well as the letters and supporting documents also included, succeed only in raising the bar of inscrutability. And this is precisely where the real fun lies--in the interplay of texts and in the blatantly plagiaristic weaving of the narrative with some "real" works of fiction: Poe'sThe Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and Jules Verne'sLe Sphinx des glaces.
In An Inexplicable Story, Czech émigré Skvorecky once again takes up the themes of banishment and of life "somewhere over the rainbow" that are familiar from his classic novels The Cowards andThe Engineer of Human Souls. But here, with sly audacity, he blurs literary fact and fiction to create a hilariously confounding, grandly literary lark. --Diana Kuprel