Dec 22, Gareth Lewis rated it really liked it Just wonderful. Inspired me to visit, which I did a couple of months ago. This passage on Czech cuisine rings comically true - Lunch. Perhaps this is the place to say a word about Czech cuisine; a word, and then on to more appetizing topics. My Czech friends, whom I value dearly and would Just wonderful.
|Published (Last):||3 March 2007|
|PDF File Size:||11.86 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||11.30 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
There is loveliness here, of course, but a loveliness that is excitingly tainted. In his book Magica Praha, that ecstatic paean of amor urbi, Angelo Maria Ripellino figures the city as a temptress, a wanton, a shee devil.
She slyly works her way into the soul with spells and enigmas to which she alone holds the key. The latter novel about the pioneering German astronomer Johann Kepler is a literary tour de force, which vividly recreates the intellectual and social milieu of Rudolphine Prague where Kepler made his most famous discoveries.
Since then he has been back to the Czech Republic on a number of occasions, and these journeys provided him with much of the material for his Prague Pictures. I spoke with John Banville in Dublin recently and started by asking what inspired him to write Kepler and produce such a detailed depiction of Prague in the 17th century.
But then I decided that it would be better to invent the details of these place. But then, you know, the older I get the more I realise that the world is not as varied as we thought it was when we were young. Most places are much alike. But Prague is a strange city, as we know. And I thought I should write a book about him as well, or at least a novel based on his life. And I thought about going to see the places where Kepler was born and lived. What makes you categorise Prague in this way?
There also those strange little side streets and strange areas. Prague does stay in the mind; it does stay in the memory. It has a peculiar power, which is not quite healthy. In term of influences and people you have read, it is obvious from Prague Pictures that you heave read Jaroslav Seifer and you also frequently quote Milan Kundera in reference to what he calls "the passion of the mind.
But, of course, we know Svejk, which is not as funny a book as many people find it. And we know Karel Capek who invented robots. But these are the easy ones. I was just thinking of looking at it from another angle.
I was wondering, perhaps because you are often said to make rather dense use of English, if this is not an impediment to the translation of your novels My books must be an absolute nightmare to translate.
I had a couple of them in Japanese some years ago and my wife met a Japanese woman who said that she had read the books. And she asked her what the translations were like. This woman said they were the worst translation she had ever read in her life.
We have no control over these things. My books have very dense language and very allusive, so they are very difficult to translate. I always remember how a novel written by John Braine in the s about working-class life in England, which was called Room at the Top, which was translated into Swedish as The Attic! So in many ways my work is a hostage to fortune.
Are there any changes that have struck you each time you have returned? The city of Kafka, Capek and Ripellino, who wrote the wonderful Magica Praha, which is one of the best things ever written about any city. The place that he conjures up is I think still there. Why should this be exclusive to Eastern Europe? Or rather what we used to call Eastern Europe.
Does it start at Prague? Or Vienna? Or Paris? There is just Europe and there always was. The Soviet Bloc was a completely false border, which cut down the middle of Europe. They do it everywhere else and they have great fun doing so. Or they certainly change, as they will in Prague as well. One of the things that has kept Eastern Europe being Eastern Europe and behind the walls that the Societ Union had put up is our sentimental notion that people from Prague, Budapest and Warsaw were somehow ennobled by their suffering.
Suffering is just painful. I think a lot of sentimentality went into our view of what we used to call Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic - and Prague in particular - is very, very beautiful. The people are very sweet, wonderfully cultured, very friendly, bit my God how they eat that food I do not know. It is surely the most disgusting cuisine in the world. At least I find it so. But then the opposite of this is that the last time I was there I went to a very fancy, extremely expensive French restaurant in Mala Strana and it was just awful.
It was just as pretentious and bad as any fake French restaurant anywhere else in the world. So that reconciled me a bit to Czech food. One can eat badly anywhere. I suppose this is peasant food. Unfortunately that never happened to me in Prague - after all Czech women are so beautiful But I do still have that little pilot light of longing for the city on the Vltava.
All cities, to some extent, live mostly in our heads, but the Czech capital often seems entirely an imaginative construct. In his novel, Kepler of , Banville alchemised brilliantly the city of the seventeenth century out of scraps and fragments of research. For that book, he mentally wandered the ill-lit alleyways that were the labyrinthine dystopia of Rudolf II, the enlightened, insane Holy Roman Emperor who shut himself in the adamantine castle, Hradcany, that broods above the River Vltava, and surrounded himself with artists and artisans, chancers and necromancers. It was not until a couple of years later that Banville could inspect the veracity of his creation at first hand. At that time, Prague was still greatcoated in the Cold War.
John Banville: Using words to paint pictures of "magical" Prague
There is loveliness here, of course, but a loveliness that is excitingly tainted. In his book Magica Praha, that ecstatic paean of amor urbi, Angelo Maria Ripellino figures the city as a temptress, a wanton, a shee devil. She slyly works her way into the soul with spells and enigmas to which she alone holds the key. The latter novel about the pioneering German astronomer Johann Kepler is a literary tour de force, which vividly recreates the intellectual and social milieu of Rudolphine Prague where Kepler made his most famous discoveries. Since then he has been back to the Czech Republic on a number of occasions, and these journeys provided him with much of the material for his Prague Pictures.
Prague Pictures: A Portrait of the City