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Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City
John Banville
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 2003



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Prague is the magic capital of Europe. Since the days of Emperor Rudolf II, 'devotee of the stars and cultivator of the spagyric art', who in the late 1500s summoned alchemists and magicians from all over the world to his castle, it has been a place of mystery and intrigue. Wars, revolutions, floods, the imposition of Soviet communism, or even the depredations of the tourist boom after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989, could not destroy the unique atmosphere of this beautiful, proud and melancholy city on the Vltava. John Banville traces Prague's often tragic history and portrays the people who made it, the emperors and princes, geniuses and charlatans, heroes and scoundrels, and paints a portrait of the Prague of today, revelling in its newfound freedoms, eager to join the European Community and at the same time suspicious of what many Praguers see as yet another totalitarian takeover. He writes of his first visit to the city, in the depths of the Cold War, when he engaged in a spot of art smuggling, and of subsequent trips there, of the people he met, the friends he made, the places he came to know.

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BOOKS BY JOHN BANVILLE:

Long Lankin
1970

Nightspawn
1971

Birchwood
1973

Dr Copernicus
1976
Historical novel based on the life of Nicholas Koppernigk, better known as Copernicus, whose ideas and writings shattered the medieval view of the universe.
Kepler
1981
Johannes Kepler, born in 1571 in south Germany, was one of the world's greatest mathematicians and astronomers. The author of this book uses this history as a background to his novel, writing a work of historical fiction that is rooted in poverty, squalor and the tyrannical power of emperors.
The Newton Letter: An Interlude
1982
A historian, about to complete a book on Isaac Newton, rents a cottage in Ireland. His intention is to put the finishing touches to his manuscript. However, as the summer wears on, he becomes obsessed by his writing.
Mefisto
1986
The central character is caught in a dilemma of the Yeatsian man who must choose between life and work, action and thought, experience and creation.
The Book of Evidence
1989
The first in a trilogy with Ghosts and Athena. Freddie Montgomery is a gentleman first and a murderer second. He committed two crimes he stole a painting from a wealthy family friend and he killed a chambermaid who caught him in the act. Here he tells his story.
Ghosts
1993
The second volume in the Freddie Montgomery trilogy. A group of strangers on a day-boat are washed up on an island the secluded home of an eminent historian and soon finds out that the grounding of their boat may not have been an accident after all.
Athena
1995
The third volume in the Freddie Montgomery Trilogy, which began with The Book of Evidence and Ghosts. Morrow is at a loose end when, separately, two people beckon him upstairs in an empty Dublin house. One offers him work of a dubious kind, and the other offers him a kind of love.
The Ark
1996

The Untouchable
1997
Examines the lives of the Cambridge spies, and in particular Anthony Blunt. The story is told by Blunt, in the form of a journal which starts on the 'first day of the new life'. The author uses the 'secret life' as a way to explore the darker realms of the 20th century and its hidden minds.
Eclipse
2000

Shroud
2002
Axel Vander, celebrated academic and man of culture, is spending his twilight years on the west coast of America, when, out of the blue, a letter arrives hinting at the secrets he has been hiding for fifty years.
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a City
2003
From the series 'The Writer and the City'.
The Sea
2005
–› Excerpt

The Grace family appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon found himself entangled in their lives which were as seductive as they were unsettling. What ensued haunts him for the rest of his years and shapes everything that is to follow.
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editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, info@the-ledge.com
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