Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Prague Tales by Jan Neruda

genre: fiction, short story

Jan Neruda, the author of this collection, is a big thing in the Czech Republic.  A street in the Mala Strana (lesser town) area of Prague is named after him because of the kinds of stories that are included in this collection.  Jan is a noticer of people - small details in small lives are at the crux of these stories.  Some in first person, some in third, they are all about individuals and the minutiae of daily living.  Shopkeepers, students, grocers and, especially, landlords and tenants and barkeepers - all of these folks one might interact with on a daily basis are given backstories and dreams.  

As a translation, obviously all the names are very foreign and sometimes I had to just let it go when I couldn't keep people straight.  A few stories were very engaging and others were a bit boring and I felt like I was slogging but when I look at the collection as a whole, what I really have is a sense of what life would have been like in this time and place.  What did one worry about and how did one scrape together a living?  Peddlers and flour shop owners, policeman and beggers - no one is wealthy here, this is a hard scrabble life and Neruda gives everyone their due.  Yes, he is a bit anti-Semetic and some characters feel a bit caricatured but overall, it's clear that he found his passion  in looking into lives and then hashing them back out again on paper.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...