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Prague in Black and Gold by Peter Demetz
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Prague in Black and Gold (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Peter Demetz (Author)

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241183,162 (3.87)5
Prague is at the core of everything both wonderful and terrible in Western history, but few people truly understand this city's unique culture. In Prague in Black and Gold, Peter Demetz strips away sentimentalities and distortions and shows how Czechs, Germans, Italians, and Jews have lived and worked together for over a thousand years.… (more)
Member:Yrrol
Title:Prague in Black and Gold
Authors:Peter Demetz (Author)
Info:Hill and Wang (1998), Edition: 1st, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:to-read

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Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City by Peter Demetz (1997)

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In this book, Demetz describes the history of Prague from its mythic/more probable real origin to the death of T.G. Masaryk.

I found the book very informative and interesting. It’s organized into chapters, each one focusing on a historic period – the myth of Libuse and the archeological evidence for the origin of Prague, the reign of Premyslid Otakar, the advances in the 14th c. under Charles IV, Jan Hus and his revolution, the reign of Rudolf II, the Age of Reform under Maria Theresa and Joseph II, industrialization and revolutions in the mid-19th century, and the formation of Czechoslovakia. I haven’t read any other books about Czech history so I can’t criticize which evidence/interpretations Demetz uses. However, he does spend a lot of time criticizing popular clichés and common misconceptions regarding Prague. I’ve definitely heard the one about Magic Prague (have Meyrink’s The Golem on the shelf and there was a Perutz about that) but he spends several paragraphs debunking myths about Jan Hus. For me that was unnecessary (no Hus preconceptions), but I could see how it could be helpful.

I appreciated the fact that Demetz didn’t just focus on the kings and famous revolutionaries, but spend many pages describing the changing Jewish community, the contributions of women, Germans and Italians, and the arts and culture of various ages in Prague. Because of the way the book was structured (subtitle - Scenes in the Life of a European City), there were some gaps when he’d pick up in a new chapter and some of the political background could be rushed. Also, Demetz describes the construction/demolition/reconstruction of many buildings and I think photographs or drawings would have been nice to include (google images were helpful). Most importantly, this book made me want to read more Czech history as well as more narrowly focused books. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Jan 16, 2012 |
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I love and hate my hometown, and my warring sentiments have not been assuaged by recurrent returns to Prague in the years since the takeover of 1989, sometimes poetically called the Velvet Revolution.
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Prague is at the core of everything both wonderful and terrible in Western history, but few people truly understand this city's unique culture. In Prague in Black and Gold, Peter Demetz strips away sentimentalities and distortions and shows how Czechs, Germans, Italians, and Jews have lived and worked together for over a thousand years.

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