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Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century:
A Surrealist History
Derek Sayer

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"Through both the breadth and depth of his knowledge, Sayer will reward the patient reader; in the surrealist fashion, he focuses on the seemingly mundane details to provide a true biography of Prague."--Kelsey Berry Philpot, Library Journal

"[Readers] will likely find themselves delighted by Sayer's erudition as he reintroduces dozens of figures, many long forgotten or scarcely known to non-Czechs, into our understanding of twentieth-century cultural history."--Brendan Driscoll, Booklist

"[T]his is a broad cultural history . . . with Sayer ranging easily across the arts. . . . [C]ontinually illuminating."--Andrew Mead, Architectural Review

"In this erudite, witty and well-illustrated book, Sayer restores Czech avant-garde art between the two world wars to its rightful position at the heart of European culture. A worthy successor to Sayer's much-praised The Coasts of Bohemia."--Financial Times, "Books of the Year So Far" Summer Reading Guide

"A real page-turner that leads the reader through all possible facets of Modernism in Prague, starting with Breton's and Eluard visit to the city in 1935 and ending with the crashing of all modern and Surrealist legacy by the Communist regime in the 1940s and 50s. At the same time, Sayer's book pays also great attention to previous periods while putting also a strong emphasis on the many efforts, from the Prague Spring till today's resistance to Prague's Macdonalization, to recover the revolutionary power and intuitions of the past, in the field of art but as well as in that of daily life. . . . [A] fabulously good read. . . . Derek Sayer stands already out as one of the most convincing representatives of how to rethink our cultural past today."--Jan Baetens, Leonardo

"A thoroughly engrossing book."--Jim Burns, Northern Review of Books

"Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century is a thoroughly engrossing book. . . . What [Sayer] says makes me wish I'd read a book like his before I went there all those years ago. I think I would have looked around the city with a greater awareness of its qualities."--Jim Burns, Northern Review of Books

"This is a remarkable, unusual and fascinating book. . . . [T]he book brings together fantastic material from history, literature, art, politics, architecture and poetry, giving the readers an incredibly rich and diverse picture of modern Prague."--Michael Lowy, Debatte

"Sixty-two well-chosen illustrations, detailed descriptions, and many extended quotations from sources greatly enliven the book and make the author's argument convincing."--Choice

"[A] fascinating, forgotten, cultural history."--Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist

"A masterful and unforgettable account of a city where an idling flaneur could just as easily be a secret policeman, this book vividly shows why Prague can teach us so much about the twentieth century and what made us who we are."--Czech Literature Portal

"Prague is not, strictly speaking, travel writing but it is, among other things, an excellent example of what travel writing is becoming, if indeed it hasn't already done so. . . . People are no longer so easily satisfied by the mere travel impressions of some outsider much like themselves. Instead they gravitate towards writers who actually have lived not simply in, but inside, a location for an extended period, as one lives inside one's clothes."--George Fetherling, Diplomat and International Canada

"Derek Sayer's meandering dérive through the hall of mirrors of 20th-century European history may prove taxing to the scholar who expects a clearly signposted route, but exhilarating to the intellectual flâneur. . . . Sayer has an admirable eye for (sometimes excruciating) detail; coupled with occasional glimmers of wry humour, this produces an intimate and absorbing experience while slowly, unobtrusively deconstructing the reader's understanding of history. . . . His Prague is woven around the reader slowly and silently, page by page, until we cannot help but be made aware of the final image--neither beautiful nor ugly, but undeniably real."--Esther Galfalvi, Gorse

"This is a beautiful, erudite, fascinating . . . book. Densely researched and resolutely nonlinear, it demands the reader's commitment."--Andrea Orzoff, Austrian Studies Newsmagazine

"Sayer covers much ground in this informative and well-illustrated book and its scope is much larger than the title would suggest. . . . Sayer presents a book that is thoroughly researched, highly informative and covers a range of Prague-related topics. It is recommended for postgraduate students, researchers and scholars with an interest in the history of arts, urban history and the cultural history of inter-war Czechoslovakia in particular."--Andrea Talabér, European Review of History

"Sayer's intimate knowledge of the writers he quotes, his vast erudition and fondness for the various aspects of Prague's history and topography make this book a joy to read. It will appeal to intellectual and cultural historians interested in the overlapping of modernism and modernity as well as those looking for new ways to write about history and place, but it will surely also attract a broader readership."--Claire Morelon, Social History


"A triumph! Sayer's indispensable work is at once magisterial and puckish, authoritative and subversive, intellectually dense and brilliantly accessible."--Michael Beckerman, New York University

"This is a fascinating and brilliantly written narrative that combines elements of literary guide, biography, cultural history, and essay. Writing with warm engagement, and drawing on his detailed knowledge of Czech literature, art, architecture, music, and other fields, Derek Sayer provides a rich picture of a dynamic cultural landscape."--Jindrich Toman, University of Michigan

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File created: 10/28/2014

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