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Prague Pictures : Portraits of a City by…
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Prague Pictures : Portraits of a City (2003)

by John Banville

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Prague is the magic capital of Europe. Since the days of Emperor Rudolf II, 'devotee of the stars and cultivator of the spagyric art', who in the late 1500s summoned alchemists and magicians from all over the world to his castle on Hradcany hill, it has been a place of mystery and intrigue. Wars, revolutions, floods, the imposition of Soviet communism, or even the depredations of the tourist boom after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989, could not destroy the unique atmosphere of this beautiful, proud and melancholy city on the Vltava. John Banville traces Prague's often tragic history and portrays the people who made it, the emperors and princes, geniuses and charlatans, heroes and scoundrels, and paints a portrait of the Prague of today, revelling in its newfound freedoms, eager to join the European Community and at the same time suspicious of what many Praguers see as yet another totalitarian takeover. He writes of his first visit to the city, in the depths of the Cold War, when he engaged in a spot of art smuggling, and of subsequent trips there, of the people he met, the friends he made, the places he came to know. ( )
  Hanneri | Apr 24, 2013 |
This is a delightful melange of personal narrative, Prague history, and biographical snippets on historic figures associated with Prague. Banville has an ongoing love affair with the city. He recounts various visits both during and after the Cold War. Interspersed are biographical sketches of Charles IV, Rudolph II, photographer Josef Sudek, Tycho Brae and Kepler. Banville's style is warm, personal and erudite. He achieves what every travel writer strives for: hemakes the city come to life and makes you want yo go there. ( )
  nemoman | Dec 9, 2012 |
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Epigraph
So much I loved you, though with words alone,
my lovely city, when your cloak was thrown
wide open to reveal your lilac charms;
much more was said by those who carried arms


          - 'To Prague', Jarolsav Seifert,
          translated by Ewald Osers
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here ?
          -Questions of Travel', Elizabeth Bishop
Dedication
To Ola Dunham
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It was winter the first time I saw Prague, the city blanketed with snow and glistening in the sunlight of an unseasonably bright late January.
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"Prague is the magic capital of Europe. Since the days of Emperor Rudolf II, 'devotee of the stars and cultivator of the spagyric art', who in the late 1500s summoned alchemists and magicians from all over the world to his castle on Hradcany Hill, it has been a place of mystery and intrigue. Wars, revolutions, floods, the imposition of Soviet communism, or even the depredations of the tourist boom after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989, could not destroy the unique atmosphere of this beautiful, proud and melancholy city on the Vltava." "John Banville traces Prague's often tragic history and portrays the people who made it, the emperors and princes, geniuses and charlatans, heroes and scoundrels, and paints a portrait of the Prague of today, revelling in its newfound freedoms, eager to join the European Community and at the same time suspicious of what many Praguers see as yet another totalitarian takeover. He writes of his first visit to the city, in the depths of the Cold War, when he engaged in a spot of art smuggling, and of subsequent trips there, of the people he met, the friends he made, the places he came to know."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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