Friday, November 6, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown: No. 55

"Prague" by Arthur Phillips

This funny novel takes a beautiful detour back into the pages of Hungarian history to show how a publisher came through the ordeals of the 20th century, including World War II and communism. Riding atop the history is a young American journalist who finds a way to monetize his writings to take advantage of the economic boom times following the fall of communism. The novel is named ironically: Prague is where the characters really want to be but end up instead in Budapest, whose history has been preserved by the neglect of communism. One other character falls prey to obsessive-compulsive tendencies riding up and down a tram; ever since I read the book, I sometimes feel myself falling prey to the same tendencies, as I obsess over one particular spot in an urban landscape (a park, a view, a bench, anything). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Arthur Phillips' first novel.

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