Keys to the City – Literature and Movies
Sometimes I like reading a book about a city before I go there. Sometimes I like reading it while I’m there. And sometimes I like reading about a city after I’ve left. I know some people who are really into movies, especially since Prague’s FAMU brings a lot of film students to the city. So here are some suggestions of movies to watch and books to read. You can watch/read them before you come, after you leave, or so you can continue to live vicariously.
We’ve all heard of at least one famous Czech author: Franz Kafka. If you haven’t, go to the library, check out Metamorphosis, and we’ll see you in a few months. But there are a lot of Czech authors definitely worth reading beyond Kafka, like Havel, for example. And there are some books about Prague worth reading even though their authors aren’t quintessentially “Czech.” Here are some books I’d recommend for your trip:
Prague Winter – Madeline Albright. A beautiful memoir that blends history and her story seamlessly. Note that it does have a significant pro-Czech/pro-US/anti-Germany slant.
I Served the King of England – Bohumil Hrabal. Narrated by a teenage boy as he comes of age while serving as a waiter and maître’d in various restaurants around the Czech lands, this book both entranced me and left me hanging. I could easily say that I didn’t like it, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down, and at the end of the book, I kept trying to turn to the next – nonexistent – page.
Too Loud a Solitude – Bohumil Hrabal. About censorship in the Czech Republic. I haven’t read it myself, but apparently it is very good, and now it is on my list too!
Burning Bush. A lot of students recommended this. I have no idea what it is about or when it was made or by whom or really anything about it. But multiple people in different types of classes and from different schools and majors all recommended it, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you should watch it.
Pelíšky. A movie shown every holiday season, I’ve yet to see it, but I sure I will see it very shortly. It seems to be a bit like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving in that everyone has heard of it, seen it, and can quote half of it.
Samotáři. This is described by one of the Czech buddies as “a cult film extremely popular amongst the generation of people who are now in their 20s or early 30s.” I don’t think I could say that any better.