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Other City (Czech Literature Series) Paperback – June 11, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"The texts of the Czech writer Michal Ajvaz (pronounced EYE-voss) are evidence not only of a clever imagination, but also of a mind that savors the difficulty of reading--a mind for which language is not merely a vehicle for the delivery of information, but an integral part of the very world it is trying to communicate. Reading such a world means stepping inside it, letting it infect you, bruise, scrape, poison and obsess you." --Jonathan Bolton, CONTEXT
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In the end, The Other City is a celebration of the courage needed to encounter the unknown. "The dread you feel on the preiphery of your world is the beginning of the bliss of return." There may be danger, but even defeat in the quest can merge with the joy of the journey and become part of it. What matters is the ability to enter a landscape from which society tries to protect us while, at the same time, denying us the right to become our true selves in the experience.
The narrator accepts this challenge: "I abandoned myself to the power of the journey and didn't know whether in the future the journey would command me to remain outside the walls, or to return with my knapsack full of tongues cut from the maws of dragons."
This is a compact gem of a book. The wonderful and surreal events endured by the narrator become, in the end, the as yet unknown and unformed challenges we face when we have the courage to embrace change. In image and message, The Other City marries the surreal to the mundane. This artful juxtaposition enriches and informs the readers' experience. Finally, "we are troubled by the dark music heard from over the border, which undermines our order." The question posed is whether we follow where the music leads us.
The most fascinating thing about this book, in terms of writing and not story, are the paragraphs. In our internet culture it is not uncommon to stumble across some post on a forum or a blog or wherever you may be that does not have a character or word limit that consists of one massive paragraph, Most refer to it as a wall of text and they are right to do so. No one likes them, no one wants to read them, and it is frustrating for all. I feel the same about books, mostly because the longer I read without some break the more likely I am to become distracted by thought or something shiny lurking across the room and have my concentration shatter to a thousand pieces. This was one of the main reasons I stopped reading Zelazny's The Guns of Avalon.
The Other City erupts spontaneously into pages-long passages consisting of one paragraph, usually of dialogue.Read more ›
I had no idea that I also owned the uncredited sequel to "Paris Peasant." Now it is one thing to just think up new, radical ideas in literature. It is quite another thing to actually realize them. I don't think anyone truly succeeded in mythologizing the modern and wedding metaphysics to art and literature until Czech author Michal Ajvaz came along and wrote "The Other City" in 1993. "The Other City" is not simply a study of different modes of seeing and interpreting. It is not a treatise. It is a book that takes the Surrealist transformation of everyday objects and crosses the border into speculative fiction. It is simultaneously an argument in favor looking beyond and beneath words and surfaces, and the story of a man who discovers another world embedded in our own. Think of a cross between "Paris Peasant" and Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and you'll have at least a partial idea of what Ajvaz has accomplished.
One snowy afternoon in a used bookstore, Ajvaz's unnamed narrator comes across a purple-bound volume written in an unknown language, accompanied by several strange illustrations. He takes it to a scholar, who is immediately unnerved and recommends that he put the book back and forget the whole thing. Instead, the narrator's curiosity is intensified, and he quickly finds himself wandering deep down the rabbit hole.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Other City is "a guidebook to this invisble 'other Prague', overlapping the workaday world: a place where libraries can turn into jungles, secret passages yawn beneath our... Read morePublished on September 11, 2012 by Black Plum