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TIME'S MAGPIE: A Walk in Prague

One in the Crown Journeys series
Author: Myla Goldberg

Sometimes a city can be like a bird. Just as the magpie is an inveterate collector, hoarding beautiful eclectic bits to line its nest, so Prague retains fragments from bygone regimes and centuries past to create a city of juxtaposition that is alternately exquisite and bizarre.

Prague’s personality is expressed as much by its obvious beauty as by its overlooked details. This unforgettable place is brought to life by acclaimed author Myla Goldberg, a former Prague expat, whose first novel, Bee Season, captivated so many with its unique voice and exhilarating prose.

Goldberg lived in Prague in 1993, just as the process of Westernization was getting under way, the city straddling a past it wished to shed and a future it was eager to embrace. In 2003, she returned to see what the pursuit of capitalism had wrought and to observe the integral ways in which Prague’s character had endured. In Time’s Magpie, Goldberg explores a city where centuries-old buildings have become receptacles for Western values and a generation defined by the Communist regime coexists with a generation for whom Communism is a rapidly fading memory.

Wander through the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets to places most tourists never see—to a neighborhood eerily transformed by the devastating flood of 2002; to an anachronistic amusement park that is home to a discomfiting array of Technicolor confections; and to the cabinets of curiosity in the Strahov Monastery, where hidden among deceptively modest displays of butterfly specimens and ladies’ fans are creatures that defy the laws of taxidermy. This imaginative, individualistic journey will show you the odd and unique corners of a city often seeking to erase what its very stones will not allow it to forget.

From Publishers Weekly

Goldberg, author of the acclaimed 2001 novel Bee Season, depicts a culturally and historically complex Prague in this newest entry in the Crown Journeys series (after Kinky Friedman’s The Great Psychedelic Armadillo Picnic). In describing her experiences visiting such traditional tourist destinations as Kafka’s grave and lesser-known attractions like the display cabinets in the Strahov Monastery, Goldberg brings to life Prague’s past; upon entering the reading room at the Czech National Library, she imagines how the room must have looked centuries ago, the "rectangular wooden tables lined with hungry Jesuits, the air echoing with sounds of priestly mastication." Goldberg also recounts her interactions with the Czechs, comparing the economic and cultural development of the city to the values and dispositions of its inhabitants. Her encounter with two police officers who demand that she pay a fine for walking along a passageway prohibited to pedestrians demonstrates the lamentable reality that "the Westernization of Prague’s commercial sector does not extend to its cops," the majority of whom "are interested in using their position in whatever way they can for personal or material gain." Goldberg’s musings on all aspects of the Prague experience, from the dearth of public bathroom facilities at the Lunapark amusement area to the resonant sounds of the city ("the rubber burble of car tires against cobblestone, the screech of tram wheels grinding against the rails, the clomp of a babushka’s heavy shoes against the sidewalk, and the murmur of manifold conversations"), make this a rich and vivid reflection on a beautiful, multifaceted city.
© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

$16.95 (hardcover)
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