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A Prague-born and -raised literary and intellectual historian, Demetz traces the enormous changes the city underwent between the Middle Ages and the eve of WW II. (Strangely, he does not extend his story to encompass either the brief "Prague Spring" of 1968 or the "velvet revolution" of 1989 that, with amazing swiftness, brought about communism's collapse.) Demetz is particularly interesting on the revolt led by followers of the martyred Jan Hus, a precursor to Luther, in the early 15th century, and on how the city affected, and sometimes dazzled, the host of literary and other creative figures who lived there or passed through, from Goethe to André Breton. He also captures repeated moments of tension, and rather more uncommon ones of harmony, between the city's two large ethnic communities: Germans and Czechs. Both groups periodically turned violently against the city's third great community, the Jews, who also provided a disproportionate share of cultural and scientific leadership. Demetz's style is both richly anecdotal and well grounded in a wide range of secondary sources, and he does an excellent job of balancing political and cultural history. (As a city "insider," Demetz seems particularly knowledgeable about Prague's neighborhoods and architecture.) However, he does have a propensity to overwhelm the reader with myriad names and, on occasion, to become bogged down in narrative details.
In general, however, this is a fine introduction to a city that, like Rome or Jerusalem, has equally compelling legendary and actual histories.
|1||Libussa, or Versions of Origin||3|
|2||Otakar's Prague, 880-1278||30|
|3||The Carolinian Moment: Charles IV and His Age||67|
|4||The Hussite Revolution: 1415-22||118|
|5||Rudolf II and the Revolt of 1618||171|
|6||Mozart in Prague||237|
|7||1848 and the Counterrevolution||272|
|8||T. G. Masaryk's Prague||314|
|Postscript. A Difficult Return to Prague||365|
Posted May 30, 2002
I looked up Internet to find the address of Mr. Demetz to express my enjoyment with his book, but found this instead. So here I go: The best book about Czech history: As it so vividly with many details describes various descisive periods in Czech history, it makes you understand and feel with the protagonists, be it emperors, religeous reformators or others. I am now at the chapter about Rudolf II and felt I absolutely must write the author to express my thanks for such an interesting book. It is not for the hasty tourist, however, you must have a deeper interest in the history of the Czechs, but for me as an expatriate at the age of three, it made me finally understand my homeland's peripeties and thus being a tourist now will mean something more than seeing uncomprehensible buildings and sights without knowing the historical back-ground.
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Posted October 29, 2008
Being raised in Los Angeles i know next to nothing about European History.<BR/>So when i picked up this book and began to read you can imagine i was <BR/>fascinated. The author is truly a gifted writer. And the material holds<BR/>your attention constantly. I did not want to put this down. If you have <BR/>any spare time in your busy life, this is well worth the effort. I love<BR/>this book and i'm not Czech. Thanks to the Author. I Cr 13;8a.
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