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Review of Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century (Choice)

Press clipping: Research

Publication date31/10/13

"Building on his acclaimed The Coasts of Bohemia (CH, Nov '98, 36-1740), sociologist and cultural historian Sayer (Lancaster Univ., UK) argues that especially in the interwar period, Prague was so important a representative of the various aspects of modernity that it can legitimately be called the "capital of the twentieth century."  Using an evocative analysis of the surrealist movement—its  reception as well as its independent Czech manifestations—the author traces cultural developments in the Czech capital (with reference also to, among other places, Paris and Vienna).   Sayer focuses primarily on architecture, literature, and the visual arts, and he is especially effective at showing the ideological implications and the manifold cultural challenges surrealism presented.   Many of the movements and individuals whose lives and achievements he treats will be unfamiliar to Anglophone readers: the Devětsil, Josef Šíma, Vítězslav Nezval, Karel Teige, Toyen (Marie Čermínová), Jindřich Štyrský, to mention only a few examples.  But one of the great merits of this impressive book is to make their activities and accomplishments available to Western readers.   Sixty-two well-chosen illustrations, detailed descriptions, and many extended quotations from sources greatly enliven the book and make the author's arguments convincing.   Summing Up: Highly recommended."


AuthorP. W. Knoll