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BIBLIOGRIND

Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Day 10: Used BOOKS!

I found a used English-language bookstore, today. Actually, two stores. A very small chain, Shakespeare and Sons, has a couple of sites in Prague, one in the very touristy Starometska, and the VERY untouristy, Vrsovice (a sort of run down few blocks down from Namesti Miru). The Vrsovice store has a coffee shop/bar in the front, with used & new books in back. I got a copy of Czech novelist Josef Skvorecki’s “The Engineer of Human Souls” for cheap. The title comes from, reportedly, what Joseph Stalin called all novelists, who, he thought (quite rightly) were able to tell people how life was really like. Needless to say, Uncle Joe didn’t like novelists within a communist system.

I recall reading about his meeting Mikale Bulgokov, author of “The Master and Margarita”, regarding whether the Soviet Union would allow the novelist to publish his now famous book. He reportedly told Bulgokov that his “Master” was a work of pure genious, “and you’ll never live to see it published in the Soviet Union.” Stalin was right about his prediction; but Bulgokov had already smuggled the novel out of the country, and soon it would appear in translation around the Western world. The first Russian translation came shortly after the USSR crumbled. In that vein, I think Czesław Miłosz said it best, when he claimed that totalitarian rule could capture one’s body, and even one’s mind, but it could never control the heart.

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