Category Archives: Literature

Tales of travel and adventure in Central Europe

Prague Literary History: The Expat Contribution

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 1.19.30 PMWith the Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse turning 20 years old this week, it got my mind thinking about all the hype in the 1990s about Prague serving as some kind of literary crucible from which future classics of English literature would emerge. The text here is from an article I wrote a couple of years back on that subject. My angle was that the author community was much maligned at the time but that more than a fair number of good and very good expat writers lived and worked here at some point in their lives and that their Prague experiences affected their output.

I still feel that way now, and the titles that have come out in print since I originally wrote the article only strengthen my case: Matt Welch’s “Myth of a Maverick” (nonfiction), Leslie Chang’s “Factory Girls” (also nonfiction) and Brendan McNally’s “Germania,” among others. My apologies to anyone I have overlooked in this article. Please help me fill in the blanks by leaving a comment below. A big thanks to Ken Nash, the author of the cartoon in the upper left. He drew it in 1993, showing that Prague was “over” practically from the moment it began. Read More →

‘The Prague Post’ Calls It Quits In Print

notoveryet“Not Over Yet.” The headline of the last print edition of The Prague Post after 22 years reeks of unintended irony or maybe it’s a bit of an inside gag (it wouldn’t be the first time). At any rate, it’s a sad day for English readers in the Czech capital as well as for former staffers, including the author of this website. I was the paper’s first Business Editor, working from 1991 to 1993 at the Post’s tiny offices at Dlouha trida 2 in the center and then for a time at the paper’s second location on Politickych veznu 9, near Wenceslas Square.

At least on one level, the headline is completely accurate. According to a letter circulated this week by owner Monroe Luther, the paper will continue on as a digital-only publication, so in that sense at least the Post really is “not over yet.” It only feels that way. Read More →

The Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse Turns 20

GlobeOpeningPartyThis photo shows the scene 20 years ago this week, when the Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse first opened its doors in Prague’s Holesovice district. I was one of the five original partners and I can remember the details of that long and agonizing summer as we anticipated the opening as if it were yesterday.

The Prague Post published a story this week on the anniversary and plans in early August (August 2 and 3) to hold parties marking the milestone. Here is a link to another story with more details published in 2006. This week’s Post story is comprehensive and I won’t repeat bits here, other than to say it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by and that I feel very fortunate for having been part of the Globe from the very start. Read More →

Meeting Writer Olen Steinhauer In Budapest

SteinhauerThis interview with Budapest-based American author Olen Steinhauer originally appeared in the ‘Wall Street Journal Europe’ in 2008. At the time, Olen was a modestly successful author of a series of thrillers set at various intervals in the Eastern bloc during the communist period. I discovered a couple of his novels one day by accident while scrounging through a bookstore in Vienna and was instantly hooked. This interview covered those Eastern European thrillers. Since our conversation, he’s gone from strength to strength, and is now better known for his ‘Milo Weaver’ books, including ‘The Tourist,’ which became a New York Times bestseller.

The 1989 Revolutions brought down the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, yet among many a feeling of nostalgia persists for those seemingly simpler times. No one seriously wants to turn back the clock, and former Cold War haunts like Prague and Budapest have never looked better, but there is a lingering romance about those spooky pre-’89 days.

American author Olen Steinhauer’s recent series of spy thrillers—all set in a fictionalized East European country during the Cold War—is a thoroughly enjoyable trip down memory lane. As you turn the pages (in the comfort of your armchair), you can almost smell the acrid sharpness of an East European cigarette or hear the rapid retort of a two-stroke Trabant being kick-started in the distance. Read More →