by Knopf, $23.00. Apparently this novel from Czechoslovakia was written before the collapse of communism and the establishment of the country’s independence, but it foreshadows both. The principal figures (four disorderly artists engaged in the restoration of frescoes at a Renaissance castle plus two young associates) provoke riot at home and, when cast adrift in Siberia, uproar abroad. The Soviet citizens involved are sinister but ineffectual, the Czechs rattle-witted but indomitable. Behind the comedy and fantasy of the action lurk an ironic view of national character and much actual history. The book is unusual and intriguing..