Category Archives: Prague

PREJUDICE, HYSTERIA AND A FAILURE OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP: OF REFUGEES AND NOVEMBER 17 IN PRAGUE

 

This is an Op-Ed piece I wrote for CEE New Perspectives, the companion blog of the academic journal New Perspectives which is published by the Institute of International Relations (IIR) in Prague.  I reproduce it here with permission.

http://ceenewperspectives.iir.cz/2016/01/08/prejudice-hysteria-and-a-failure-of-political-leadership-of-refugees-and-november-17-in-prague/

AtZijeZeman_AleJinde

 


Surrealism and sociology: unlikely bedfellows?

PosterSayer_finalweb

Find out more at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/methods-lab-annual-lecture-tickets-15710281876


Why I Love the Prague Coffee House Kafka Didn’t Frequent

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Some time back I was asked to contribute a piece on any location in Prague for the “Where I go” feature of the internet magazine Zocalo Public Square.  I chose to write (again) about the Grand Cafe Slavia.  It finally came out earlier this week.  Here it is.


Surreal love in Prague

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I am delighted that my book Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: a Surrealist History is the subject of the lead review in this week’s Times Literary Supplement, along with Thomas Ort’s Art And Life In Modernist Prague: Karel Čapek and his generation, 1911–1938.  In her long review essay “Surreal love in Prague” Marci Shore writes:

Sayer’s book is a pleasure to read, luscious in a sultry kind of way… Sayer meanders voyeuristically into the affairs between Franz Kafka and Milena Jesenská, Alma Mahler and Oskar Kokoschka, Leoš Janáček and Kamila Stösslová, and tarries alongside the ménage à trois of Éluard, Gala, and Max Ernst. The Vogue model turned photographer Lee Miller makes an appearance, as do the singer Jarmila Novotná, the architect Le Corbusier, the “little girl conductor” Vítěslava Kaprálová, and the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. The axis is Prague–Paris, but we detour to Vienna for Expressionism, Berlin for Dada, the Moravian town of Zlín for the Bata shoe factory.

While Sayer lingers at length among Surrealist erotica, he disapproves of the Surrealists’ “propensity to parlay the sordid into the sublime”.  Prague itself – krásná Praha, zlatá Praha (beautiful Prague, golden Prague) – has long been eroticized, but Sayer finds the city’s sexualization tawdry. For him, Prague is the laboratory where Éluard’s belief that “everything is transmutable into everything” is confirmed. “This little mother has claws”, as Kafka wrote of his own city. The fairy-tale picture of the castle overlooking the river conceals the necrophiliac and the sadomasochistic, and images of the pre-modern grotesque flicker across Sayer’s Surrealist narrative … If for Benjamin Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century, for Sayer Prague was the capital of the twentieth: “Prague is a less glittering capital for a century, to be sure, than la ville-lumière, but then it was a very much darker century”.

Thank you Professor Shore for a very generous review!  I am also really pleased that the TLS chose to illustrate “Surreal love in Prague” with Toyen’s painting “At the Château Lacoste” (below) and to use one of Karel Teige’s surrealist collages for the magazine cover (above).

The full text of Marci Shore’s review can be found here.

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Not about the REF

Sorry y’all, this one is about me.  Very pleased that Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century has made the Financial Times Books of the Year.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/f60b681e-529f-11e3-8586-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2m4SQXaUi

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Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: the Page 99 Test

“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you” –said Ford Madox Ford.

Following this maxim,  Marshal Zeringue has created a very entertaining blog, “The Page 99 Test,” in which he asks authors to comment on page 99 of their book and publishes the results.  He asked me to take the test and I did.

It turned out page 99 was set in a cemetery.

You can read the results here.

 

Writing

I have uploaded two essays (of sorts) to the Writings section of this site.  “American Surreal” was inspired by Veryl Goodnight’s monument to the fall of the Berlin Wall at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Texas A & M University campus in College Station, Texas.  “Games of the Doll” is an outtake from Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century.  It  tries to wrestle with the disconcerting gaze of the German surrealist Hans Bellmer’s notorious adolescent doll.  I have also added a photo of our poodle Luci to the “About” section.  She will shortly be taking driving lessons.

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Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century

It has taken me over ten years to research and write Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, the sequel to The Coasts of Bohemia (Princeton University Press 1998).  On the weekend I received an advance bound proof copy.  It felt good!

656 pages, 62 illustrations, cloth $35.00/£24.95, Princeton University Press Spring 2013.

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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.”  Jindřich Toman, University of Michigan

The book is already listed at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk