The story, rich in contemporary realia and with much laughter through tears, is told by Anička. She recalls how the Slovak president and parish priest Jozef Tiso used to go to Bánovce every Sunday to say Mass, and for a game of chess and a chat in the family home of the respectable pharmacist. Was Tiso ultimately more a statesman or a priest?
Lavrík proceeds unsystematically to address this question, using personal testimonies. Without prettifying or brutalising, he recasts things in literary language. He does not write directly about Tiso but rather through the eyes of Anička, with her cheerless family background – due to the absence of her father and her bad relationship with her mother, and the latter’s fits of rage, she has ended up in the position of a local outsider. Her only joys come from her cousins Alica, Sidónia and Matilda, from the pharmacist, and from working for Monsignor Tiso: “The truth is, I became so greatly attached to the Monsignor that I’d have done anything for him”. Anička’s literary efforts are naïve but moving, and in places they capture with bone-chilling intensity the reality, or the contemporary mood, of the civil society for which Tiso was the architect of its independence. Initially the author introduces the idyllic atmosphere built around the Tiso myth. At the same time, however, Lavrík sees Tiso as a strategist who has learned to play on several chessboards, not hesitating to sacrifice pawns, adhering to the tactical vision that one cannot achieve ultimate victory without victims. The novel is based on three sources: historical factography, oral transmission, and the author’s fiction.