Oct 15 2012
As autumn breaks over us in rain showers and shivery weather, we’ve been transitioning from back to school to scary Halloween reads at Booksmith. Aside from seasonal changes, you might notice a few other shifts in our store: we’ve brought cookbooks up front and moved the cozy Writer’s Corner to a new nook. We’ve organized our art books into beautiful displays I can barely walk past without pausing to browse. And in the travel section, we’ve dedicated a shelf to a new Destination of the Month. This October at the Globe Corner Travel Annex, we’re traveling to Prague.
I’m still not sure why I decided that Prague would be our first destination. Perhaps it was simply that the one time I had the privilege to travel there was in the month of October. My memories of the city are bathed in the crimson and gold leaves of the rolling hills and rust-colored rooftops. I recall crisp October mornings on Charles Bridge, the warm rays of an autumnal sun causing the statues along the bridge to cast long shadows. If anyone is traveling to Prague, here is my tip: No matter how many pubs you visit, do what it takes to rise early on at least one morning to make it to the Charles Bridge before 8am, before the vendors set up their wares and the crowds cover the thoroughfare. The silent beauty and austerity of the city at that early hour made a vivid impression on me that has not faded.
The memory returns every time I pick up Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, and not just because the bridge is featured on the cover, effectively inviting the reader to cross into its imagined world. “A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop,” writes Kundera. Another absolutely essential must-read for anyone traveling to the Czech Republic is the late Vaclav Havel. The playwright-who-became-president inspired many with his wise The Art of the Impossible, and we’ve got his most recent To the Castle and Back on display, right next to Bohumil Hrabal’s classic I Served the King of England.
In addition to our wide array of guidebooks to the city, we’ve culled an impressive collection of Czech literature that includes not only the Complete Stories of Kafka, which my husband is currently reading and highly recommending and making me listen to David Rakoff’s spoof on The Metamorphosis (which you can also listen to here), but also Gustave Janouch’s Conversations with Kafka, which I cannot praise highly enough for its wit and wisdom. Janouch was an 18-year-old aspiring writer when he joined his mentor Kafka on walks around Prague, discoursing on matters both philosophical and commonplace.
Some perhaps lesser-known titles you will find on our Destination Prague shelf include Josef Skvorecky’s novel, The Engineer of Human Souls, a comic and
insightful journey of a Czech immigrant professor in Toronto. Travel writer Bruce Chatwin tells the story of Utz, a fictional Czech art collector who is tied to the Communist state by his affection for his ceramic collection, stored in a Prague apartment. And finally, our newest Czech title, Petr Kral’s In Search of the Essence of Place explores the domestic spaces of a home to the larger scenes of village life in the Czech Republic. The title itself perhaps embodies the purpose of our new Destination of the Month best: to bring together a rich variety of voices and guides that can help the traveler discover the essence of a particular destination.
Read more: Book Reviews, Czech Republic, Destination of the Month, General, Kafka, Milan Kundera, News, Prague, Travel, Travel Tips and Resources