Friday, March 2, 2012

Czech it Out!

I want to live inside every
7-11 in Prague
We're putting our own Destination Literature section in the Used Book Cellar because it's an awesome idea and because we just love Jodie and her blogs so much. So Carl and I are rounding up some cool titles that take place in or are written by denizens of cool destinations the world over. And lo, as we pile up books in the section, we notice that we have in particular quite a few novels from the Czech Republic.

"Get intimate with history"
Here's the part first where I show off. Yeah, I've been to Prague. It was pretty rad. A crazy city with stunning architecture, almost untouched by WWII but frozen in time for about 20 years while the Soviets ruled, it now has huge LED reader-boards next to fairy tale spires. The people are sweet. The public transportation is efficient (without being sterile). The beer is great. The food is pork. Basically: paradise.

But back to the Communist part. One of my favorite novels of all time, which also happens to hail from CZ is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Yeah, I know it's been around for forever and you don't need yet one MORE pretentious philosophy/English major type telling you to read it. BUT. Seriously, read it. The book starts off with the Prague spring in which the Soviets rolled into town and took over the country. The Czech people were under Soviet rule from 1968-1986 and they were happy to oust them. They even have a museum dedicated to how hard and crappy life was under the communists. The impression this iron fisted rule had on the art that comes out of the Czech Republic is varied. One such novel now in our destination literature section is Jiří Gruša's The Questionnaire. Gruša took a lot of heat for writing a novel in which the protagonist is faced with a bureaucrat and a job application and writes his own surrealist, world-building response to the questions. The book is bold, brave, unlike anything else yet totally familiar. The book David Foster Wallace wanted to write when embarking on The Pale King, or One Hundred Years of Solitude if it were the product of hundreds of years of Bohemian history.

Kafka is (of course) another super-important Czech author. There's a great museum dedicated to him in Prague with some WACKY sculptures of some of the more unsavory scenes from his stories. There's even a street named after him! You know you've made it when...

So come "Czech" out our new Destination Lit section (man, I bet nobody is sick of that pun yet). And while you're at it, sell us some cool books to stock it with. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM-4PM.

Note: Blurry, sub-par photographs from the author's travels. Don't judge.

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