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European Book Club

I’m somewhat ashamed that this is the first time we’re posting about the European Book Club. I’m not sure exactly when this started (I just found out about it from Bill Martin of the Polish Cultural Institute), but looking at the books included in the 2008 program—Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser, Amara Lakhous’s Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, Peter Sis’s The Wall—this is a pretty amazing program.

Between March and November (and skipping July and August), the club meets once a month (there are sessions both in New York and Brooklyn) to discuss a book selected by one of the participating cultural centers. The cost of participating is free—all you have to do is buy a copy of the book and read it—but from what I’ve heard, the sessions fill up really quick, so if you’re interested in attending you really should register online as soon registration opens.

The first book in the 2009 season will be City Sister Silver by Jachym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker, and published by Catbird Press, a book that I’ve personally wanted to read for a while now . . .

Think one part Burgess, a little bit of Joyce, mix in some Kerouac, spiced with American Indian myth and . . . wahlah . . . City Sister Silver. Jachym Topol’s novel rocked the Czech literary scene. Marked by rapid changes in syntax, style, spelling, grammar and dialogue Topol’s style is both wild and brilliant. From one sentence to the next Topol shifts tone and meaning, mixing the vernacular with traditional literary form. Though not so radical to the English speaking world, Topol’s style marks a turning point in Czech literature. City Sister Silver is the only book from the 1990s to be included in the list of the 100 Greatest Czech Prose Works of the Century.

The book kicks off soon after “time exploded.” With the Velvet Revolution kicking, City Sister Silver is an account of one man’s response to the new era. It is nearly impossible to summarize the many plot lines as the novel skips and jumps from dreams to drunken delusions to stark reality. In a very small nutshell: Potok is an actor, a black market entrepreneur, a drinker and a romantic. Potok and his droogs rule the underbelly of Prague and have their hands in nearly every public project and business venture. Yet, he has little interest in business; Potok’s main agenda is to find his soul mate, his sister.

The book club will take place on March 23rd at the Czech Center (321 East 73rd Street), with a second session at the Brooklyn Public Library (not sure if that’s on 3/23 as well or not).

Registration isn’t open yet—as soon as it is, I’ll make another post for anyone who’s interested in attending.



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