Cover image for Prague pictures : portraits of a city
Prague pictures : portraits of a city
Banville, John.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, 2004.
Physical Description:
244 pages : illustrations, map ; 20 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DB2614 .B36 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The fourth book in Bloomsbury's Writer and the City series.

From one of the foremost chroniclers of the modern European experience, a panoramic view of a city that has seduced and bewitched visitors for centuries.

Prague is the magic capital of Europe. Since the days of Emperor Rudolf II, "devotee of the stars and cultivator of the spagyric art", who in the late 1500s summoned alchemists and magicians from all over the world to his castle on Hradcany hill, it has been a place of mystery and intrigue. Wars, revolutions, floods, the imposition of Soviet communism, and even the depredations of the tourist boom after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 could not destroy the unique atmosphere of this beautiful, proud, and melancholy city on the Vltava. John Banville traces Prague's often tragic history and portrays the people who made it: the emperors and princes, geniuses and charlatans, heroes and scoundrels. He also paints a portrait of the Prague of today, reveling in its newfound freedoms, eager to join the European Community and at the same time suspicious of what many Praguers see as yet another totalitarian takeover. He writes of his first visit to the city, in the depths of the Cold War, and of subsequent trips there, of the people he met, the friends he made, the places he came to know.

Author Notes

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of twelve novels, including The Book of Evidence , which was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize, and Kepler , which won the Guardian Prize for Fiction. He is literary editor of the Irish Times and lives in Dublin with his wife and two sons.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Here is the latest installment in Bloomsbury's fascinating Writer in the City series, which matches well-known writers with cities with which they are intimately familiar. Banville has not written a guidebook but rather, in his own words, a handful of recollections, variations on a theme --snapshots, if you like, of the city's past and present. The book begins with the author's first visit to Prague, during the cold war, but as we go deeper into the book, we also go deeper into the city's history. Banville flicks so effortlessly between past and present that Prague soon appears as a collage, effectively lifting the city's rich and visible past out of time and bringing it to life once again, as the author visits the birthplace of Franzafka or steps inside a cathedral whose construction was begun in 1344. While most travel memoirs clearly distinguish between the way a place is today and the way it used to be, Banville's perspective is somewhat different. This, he says, is Prague, past and present, the way it has always been. --David Pitt Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Part of Bloomsbury's "The Writer and the City" series, which also features excellent volumes on Paris, Sydney, and Florence, this collection of personal recollections is richly laced with the history of Europe's most haunting, melancholy city. Novelist Banville (Shroud) began his relationship with Prague in a bright January winter during the last years of the Cold War, when he agreed to help smuggle works of art out of Czechoslovakia. Banville's Prague includes his friends, many of whom found themselves at odds with the Communists and suffered for it, as well as larger-than-life historical figures such as astronomers Tycho Brahe and his sometime colleague Johannes Kepler. Banville presents a Prague of secrets and suspicion, an intellectual and artistic capital with a long history of political turmoil. Gracing the cover-and as haunting as the city itself-are two evocative photographs of Prague by Josef Sudek (whose works Banville smuggled to the West); more images like this would have been welcome. Nevertheless, this book is highly recommended for all travel and writing collections.-Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.