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Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Winner of the Europe Book Prize

One of Europe’s most preeminent investigative journalists travels to the Czech Republic—the Czech half of the former Czechoslovakia, the land that brought us Kafka—to explore the surreal fictions and the extraordinary reality of its twentieth century.

For example, there’s the story of the small businessman who adopted Henry Ford’s ideas on productivity to create the world’s largest shoe company—and hired modernist giants such as Le Corbusier to design his company towns (which were also the birthplaces of Ivana Trump and Tom Stoppard).

Or the story of Kafka’s niece, who loaned her name to writers blacklisted under the Communist regime so they could keep publishing.

Or the story of the singer Karel Gott, winner of the country’s Best Male Vocalist Award thirty-six years in a row, whose summer home, Gottland, is the Czech Dollywood.

Based on meticulous research and hundreds of interviews with everyone from filmmakers to writers to pop stars to ordinary citizens, Gottland is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a resilient people living through difficult and often bizarre times—equally funny, disturbing, stirring and absurd . . . in a word, Kafkaesque.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 28, 2014 – An already lauded collection of episodic reportage from the pen of a prolific Polish journalist (European Book Prize 2009), this grimly themed but spryly sequenced investigation into the secret-plagued reality of 20th-century Czechoslovakia falls gently short of expectations in an intriguing yet overall monotonous translation. The chronologically progressive, "mostly true" stories depict with varying scales of focus the lives and times of an eclectic cast of Czech individuals, some of them well known, like Tomas Bata, the tenacious turn-of-the-century shoe merchant who transformed his father's languishing cobbler trade into a diversified socio-industrial empire, others with scant name recognition even in their native land, like Otakar Sveck, a depressive Prague sculptor-manque whose commission to design the largest-ever Stalin monument on the banks of the Vltava River proved his own psychic toppling. The leitmotif of these tales is dispossession: the Czech people struggling to remain individuals in a state where individualism is literally a crime. Faced with the hand-tailored sadism and iron whimsy of occupying forces, these men and women must make a choice: resist or submit. With notable and deeply affecting exceptions it tends to be a lugubrious combination of the two.

Customer Reviews

A precious rare view into Czechs

History not often covered is concisely and entertaining laid out. A bit blunt. It's verse that anyone who knows Slavs will recognize. If you are at all interested in Bohemia, even as just a tourist, this is a must. And if you are not, it's just a good read.

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  • $17.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Europe
  • Published: May 27, 2014
  • Publisher: Melville House
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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