Prague Palimpsest: Writing, Memory, and the City by Alfred Thomas

By Alfred Thomas

A urban of monstrous literary mystique, Prague has encouraged writers around the centuries with its good looks, cosmopolitanism, and tragic background. Envisioning the traditional urban in vital Europe as a multilayered textual content, or palimpsest, that has been continuously revised and rewritten—from the medieval and Renaissance chroniclers who legitimized the city’s foundational origins to the modernists of the early 20th century who validated its popularity because the new capital of the avant-garde—Alfred Thomas argues that Prague has develop into a paradoxical website of inscription and effacement, of reminiscence and forgetting, a utopian hyperlink to the prewar and pre-Holocaust ecu prior and a dystopia of totalitarian amnesia. contemplating quite a lot of writers, together with the city’s most renowned son, Franz Kafka, Prague Palimpsest reassesses the paintings of poets and novelists akin to Bohumil Hrabal, Milan Kundera, Gustav Meyrink, Jan Neruda, Vítĕzslav Nezval, and Rainer Maria Rilke and engages with different recognized authors who “wrote” Prague, together with Guillaume Apollinaire, Ingeborg Bachmann, Albert Camus, Paul Celan, and W. G. Sebald. the result's a comparative, interdisciplinary research that is helping to provide an explanation for why Prague—more than the other significant ecu city—has haunted the cultural and political mind's eye of the West.

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Prague Palimpsest: Writing, Memory, and the City

A urban of substantial literary mystique, Prague has encouraged writers around the centuries with its good looks, cosmopolitanism, and tragic historical past. Envisioning the traditional urban in imperative Europe as a multilayered textual content, or palimpsest, that has been consistently revised and rewritten—from the medieval and Renaissance chroniclers who legitimized the city’s foundational origins to the modernists of the early 20th century who tested its popularity because the new capital of the avant-garde—Alfred Thomas argues that Prague has develop into a paradoxical web site of inscription and effacement, of reminiscence and forgetting, a utopian hyperlink to the prewar and pre-Holocaust ecu earlier and a dystopia of totalitarian amnesia.

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20 c h a p t e r one begun to clamor for the appointment of a male ruler, prompting the prophetess to convene a council in which she warns that a foreign prince would mean the end of Czech independence and the ruin of the state. In identifying the appointment of a male prince with the elevation of a foreign ruler, she implicitly equates her gynocracy with native Czech rule: “The community is the bastion of all. Those who neglect it have lost their senses. , defense]. Without the community conflict will ensue.

Kafka’s works were banned in Czechoslovakia for more than forty years and became officially available in Czech translation as late as 2007. However, in reacting to the official ban of Kafka’s works, many Czech writers and filmmakers turned him into a cult figure, identifying deeply with the alienated protagonists of his stories and novels. In the case of certain dissident artists in the 1960s, this identification involved the reinvention of Kafka as a prophet of totalitarianism and his characters as dissidents avant la lettre.

The target audience may have seen in the description of Přemysl as a foreigner an allusion to the new incumbent of the Czech throne, John of Luxembourg (r. 1310–46). If so, it may also have detected a historical prototype for Libuše in John’s bride, Elizabeth Přemyslovna, the last surviving representative of the native Přemyslid dynasty. In 1306 Elizabeth’s brother, Wenceslas III, was assassinated in mysterious circumstances, a crisis which plunged the entire kingdom into chaos. The ensuing interregnum witnessed a struggle in and beyond the kingdom, as foreign rulers staked their claim to the Czech crown.

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