By DONALD RAYFIELD
Peter Pišt'anek, the finest of modern Slovak novelists, died of a drug overdose on March 22, just before his fifty-fifth birthday. I discovered his work ten years ago, as an external examiner for Rajendra Chitnis’s doctorate on Slovak prose. I was duty-bound to read the Pišt'anek works Chitnis discussed: I rolled on the floor, helpless with laughter. Pišt'anek’s irreverence, obscenity, wit and ingenuity would, I was sure, find a British publisher. After a year’s wait I gave up, wrote to Pišt'anek and found a translator, Peter Petro, who shared Pišt'anek’s own background in Bratislava’s semi-dissident demimonde, and his mix of languages (Viennese German, Hungarian and even Romany enrich Bratislava Slovak). We then published his most striking novel Rivers of Babylon and its two sequels with the Garnett Press.