Prague

Nonfiction

The Coasts of Bohemi: A Czech History, Derek Sayer, 1998
A cultural and political history of the Czech people by a Canadian professor.

Exit into History: A Journey through the New Eastern Europe, Eva Hoffman, 1994
Hoffman recounts her travels across Eastern Europe following the fall of communism.

The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague, Timothy Garton Ash, 1993
An account by a British journalist of the fall of communism, which he witnessed first hand: He was actually standing next to Vaclav Havel in Wencelas Square on the eve of his assuming power.

Nightfrost in Prague: the End of Humane Socialism, Zdenek Mlynar, 1980
An account of Prague Spring by a close ally of Dubcek’s who was later transferred to Russia where he was closely monitored by the KGB.

Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka, Ernst Pawel, 1984
A biography of Franz Kafka, Prague’s most famous literary figure.

Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990, Vaclav Havel, 1992
A broad collection of writings by the former president of the Czech Republic, who turned from a playwright to a dissident and then an inspirational leader for Eastern Europe.

Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, Derek Sayer, 2013
Sayer follows the lives of Prague surrealists as he constructs a compelling argument for why Prague, with its struggles and triumphs, exemplifies twentieth-century Europe.

Prague Farewell, Heda Magolius Kovaly, 1988
This memoir is no longer in print but well worth checking out of the library if you can. It tells the story of a woman who escaped a Nazi concentration camp, survived her husband’s execution in the 1950s and witnessed the Soviet tanks roll into Prague.

Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City, Peter Demetz, 1997
A Prague native who left in 1949 and became a Yale literature professor returned to his birthplace after the Velvet Revolution, and researched this unsentimental portrait of the city.

Prague Pictures: A Portrait of the City, John Banville, 2003
Recollection of the city’s past and present.

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, Madeleine Albright, 2012
The former U.S. Secretary of State discovers her Czech roots late in life.

The Spirit of Prague, Ivan Klima, 1998
The essay collection explores totalitarianism’s inner logic and workings.

Kafka’s Prague: A Travel Reader, Ed. Klaus Wagenbach, 1996
A walking tour of Prague built around places of importance to the city’s most famous native author.

Fiction

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel, Michael Chabon, 2000
Part of this epic tail takes place in Prague and concerns itself with the story of the Golem.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera, 1999
Milan Kundera’s sexy, innovative masterpiece about the disappearance and reappearance of Czechoslovakia.

The Cowards, Josef Skvorecky, 1972
The story of an uncomplicated, talented youth caught up in momentous historic events who refuses to be bored to death by politics—or to lie down and die without a fight.

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, 1915
Set in Prague, one of Kafka’s most important and surreal stories about a man who inexplicably turns into a beetle.

The Trial, Franz Kafka, 1924
Also set in Prague, this disturbing tale follows a man accused of an unknown and unstated crime.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, 1984
Set first in Czechoslovakia, then in Switzerland, Kundera’s story tells the sometimes laborious story of a womanizing Czech surgeon forced to flee the Russian invasion and take on menial roles.

Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light, Ivan Klima, 1994
A novel about the Velvet Revolution.

Utz, Bruce Chatwin, 1988
A novel by one of the century’s best travel writers, this story is set in Prague about Kaspar Utz, a collector of Meissen porcelain, who hides his treasure through World War II and the Soviet era.

Films

Closely Watched Trains, Jiri Menzel, 1966
Oscar-winning Czech film about a young man’s coming of age, and first affair, at a rural railroad station during the German Occupation in WWII.

Kolja, Jan Sverak, 1996
The darkly comic buddy movie about a grouchy old cellist whose money-making schemes land him with a five-year-old stepson.

The Shop on Main Street, Jan Kadar & Elmar Klos, 1965
Racism, Nazism and the common man are examined in this Oscar winner about a Slovakian who takes over a Jewish widow’s dry goods shop. They develop a relationship that is endangered when the authorities want to eradicate all Jews – and he considers hiding her.

Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milos Forman, 1988
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Tomas, the apolitical ladykiller of a Czech surgeon so distracted by his sex games circa 1968 that he’s nearly blinded to the Soviet invasion that follows the Prague Spring.

Amadeus, Milos Forman, 1984
Lavish, Oscar-winning, bawdy biopic of the composer starring Tom Hulce shot on location in Prague and Vienna.

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