Top critical review
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Good insights but combined with dangerous mistakes and prejudice
on August 3, 2011
First, I must point out that I am Czech, which inevitably brings two things: I know in detail specifics of Czech soul, and of course I carry with myself (as this book does) slightly biased looking at the matter. Especially because I'm in a second part of my twentieths and virtually don't know how the life used to be during the communist era, which unfortunately negatively affected the older generation. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of time abroad and I have a lot of foreign friends (in Prague and elsewhere), so I think that I can look at the whole matter with a certain amount of detachment.
The book attempts to analyze the specifics of Czech culture and soul, in which --to some extent-- it succeeds. However, especially the first three or four parts of the book are a dangerous mix of excellent points, errors and prejudices. The author spent in the Czech Republic about four years and it seems to me that she often didn't get to the heart of the matter (in understanding the Czechs) and remained only on the surface. Likewise, (especially in the penultimate section of the book) she puts her mind on only one experience, which backfired several times. Generalization is a dangerous thing.
In many cases where I disagree with the book, my age is to blame. Simply put, the young generation that never knew the communism (i.e. 25 years or less), is quite different from my parents' generation. We are more optimistic (i.e. to the question "How are you?" we regularly answer "Well.", which is in contrary to the book), we are not obsessed with titles (again in contrary to the book), we don't mind when others have more/better things (in contrary to the book)... Just to name a few of examples I had on the top of my mind.
Although, some mistakes I found in the book fall within the competence of the author. I can think of some of them:
* "Desire to support Czech culture manifests itself in the dubbing of nearly all programs on Czech television." - This is a habit carried over from the past (communism), which we unfortunately didn't get rid of (yet). I hope it will come soon.
* "Czech law states that one vacation should be at least two weeks in length." - I've never heard of such a thing, nor experienced it with my parents or relatives.
* "Birthdays are celebrated on a smaller scale than name days." - On the contrary.
* "A money belt worn under your clothes is the best way to carry cash, credit cards, and identity documentation." - Sure, Prague is a very popular city among tourists which unfortunately attracts gangs of pickpockets (as well as any other overcrowded city full of tourists do). However, the Czech Republic is one of the safest countries in the world. Try to google for "Global Peace Index".
All in all, I recommend the book because it contains many good insights. However, the author herself emphasizes the role of the book as a mean of eliminating prejudice, so do not take the content too dogmatically. If you're not sure, ask some Czech. :-) Common sense can tell you as well.