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Translator's Note and Foreword
By F.X. Caldeira

I

Who was V. M. Straka? The world knows his name, knows his reputation as the prolific author of provocative fictions, novels that toppled governments, shamed ruthless industrialists, and foresaw the horrifying sweep of totalitarianism that has been a particular plague in these last few decades. It knows him as the most nimble of writers, one whose mastery of diverse literary idioms and approaches was on display from book to book, even chapter to chapter. But the world never knew Straka's face, never knew with certainty at single fact of the man's life.

Predictably, though disappointingly, the mystery of Straka's identity has become more intensely studied than his body of work. Interest in his life story is understandable, certainly, as he is widely acknowledged as one of the most idiosyncratic and influential novelists of the first half of this century. His appreciative readers wanted to know the man who created the stories they loved, and his enemies wanted to know who he was so he could be silenced.

The furor over Straka's identity is particularly intense due to the rumors about his activities and affiliations - rumors that are fairly bursting with tales of sabotage, espionage, conspiracy, subversion, larceny, and assassination. If there is a category of skullduggery to which Straka's name has not been linked in the popular press (and in some infuriating articles passed off as "literary scholarship"), I am not aware of it. Perhaps this is to be expected, as Straka's work itself often included secrets, conspiracies, and shadow-world occurrences. The author's personal reclusiveness was perhaps the grandest and most provocative of these.

But the focus on the Writer and not the Work dishonors both. Only in the author's private life - which was and is nobody's business - might it matte "who" he was. The few verifiable public statements Straka issued confirm that he, too, believed the authorship controversy was misguided - not to mention a pernicious threat to his safety, liberty, and peace of mind.

Nineteen novels are attributed to Straka, the first being the satirical adventure Miracle at Braxenholm, which was the toast of Europe in 1911, the final one being the book you have in your hand. Herein you will also find extensive annotations that I have contributed for the benefit of Straka's devoted readers and responsible scholars who study his work.

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