the contextual life

thoughts without borders

Short Takes: The Other City by Michal Ajvaz

with 2 comments

“Can there really exist a world in such close proximity to our own, one that seethes with such strange life, one that was possibly here before our own city and yet we know absolutely nothing about it?” So asks Michal Ajvaz in his short novel The Other City. Set in Prague, the story opens on a snowy night in a rare bookstore. A man finds a book bound in dark-purple velvet without a title or author’s name. On closer look, the alphabet appears to be “not of this world.” By the time he leaves the store, the book purchased and in his pocket, the night has grown dark.

Soon, this mysterious book with its indecipherable language leads the protagonist to an alternate world, appearing at night and its inhabitants mixing with his days. This new landscape features ordinary creatures out of place: weasels pulling television sets strapped to sleds and stingrays gliding through snow. There is even an established religion with its own mythology, temples, and martyr.

The Other City presents readers with a series of impossible events and loosely charted plot; a surrealistic adventure through a parallel world that probes at physics and stretches the mind. In the Czech tradition, Ajvaz creates a philosophical novel, deeply internal and contemplative. While it’s a smart, fun read, it is most certainly not for everyone. The Other City takes patience to settle into and tolerance for the highly experimental. For those who can suspend disbelief and let wandering tales take them where they command, they will be rewarded.

::[Links]::
Buy The Other City at IndieBound or your local bookstore
An interview with Michal Ajvaz at Weird Fiction Review
Other books from Dalkey Archive Press

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2 Responses

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  1. I love this author! Reminds me in some ways of Milan Kundera, but not sure if most would agree with that. Looking forward to this..

    odiousghost

    July 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    • Milan Kundera! Yes. That’s exactly who I had in mind when I mentioned the “Czech tradition”. Very internal.

      Gabrielle

      July 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm


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