The publication this week of Caleb Crain’s book “Necessary Errors,” which is set in Prague in the early 1990s, gives me a good excuse to reprise my post last week on the contribution of expat writers to Prague’s literary history. There were several omissions (including Crain’s book), which I’d like to rectify here. As it turns out, post-Velvet Revolution Prague more fertile for literary creation than I thought and much more fertile than it’s been given credit for.
I’ll start with Crain’s book, which I haven’t read yet but have now downloaded to my Kindle (and saving for a trip to Greece later this month). On its face, it seems to be the standard variety “wide-eyed expat comes of age in a foreign land” story, though it’s been widely reviewed (and praised) in the United States (so it might actually be pretty good). Here’s a typical review from Vanity Fair. If it does well, it could pave the way for yet more Prague books.
Judging from the feedback I received on my original post, my biggest omission was American novelist Myla Goldberg, who lived in Prague for several years and is the author of Bee Season and Time’s Magpie: A Walk Through Prague, among other books. A fellow Prague expat, Will Tizard, pointed out that Bee Season was adapted into a movie with Richard Gere. Will’s original sentence actually said “tragically adapted.” I’ve not read the book or seen the movie, but I’ll take his word for it.
Another omission was acclaimed American novelist Michael Chabon, who apparently lived in Prague for a while in the late 1990s to research his book “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” One of the novel’s main characters is a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier. It won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2001 and is now firmly on my “to read” list.
The young and upcoming British novelist Claire Wigfall also lived in Prague for a while in the 2000s (though Wikipedia says she now lives in Berlin). She is best known for her collection of short stories called “The Loudest Sound and Nothing.”
A couple of readers pointed out that American writer David Fromm’s “Expatriate Games” is a fun read and perfect if you want a memoir of Prague from the 1990s without all the fru-fru expat excess (or if you just like basketball, which is the game in question here).
Two other writers worth noting are Irish poet Justin Quinn and British sci-fi and fantasy novelist Bill King. Both have their passionate fans and, judging from the information I could glean online, have enjoyed quite a bit of success. I don’t read much poetry or fantasy, however, so I’m just passing this along for readers who might be interested.