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The Other City

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  409 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
In this strange and lovely hymn to Prague, Michal Ajvaz repopulates the
city of Kafka with ghosts, eccentrics, talking animals, and impossible
statues, all lurking on the peripheries of a town so familiar to
tourists. The Other City is a guidebook to this invisible,
"other Prague," overlapping the workaday world: a place where libraries
can turn into jungles, secret passages ya
Paperback, 168 pages
Published June 11th 2009 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,106)
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Eddie Watkins
Oct 14, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was ok
Shelves: czech-fiction
I always try to give authors the benefit of the doubt, as long as there appears to be a “serious” intention behind their work, and signs of an authentic imagination at work. If I read something and don’t initially like it, I’ll reevaluate my own approach and expectations, and will read up on the author a bit to get a sense of his/her intention and mindscape, and then I will begin the book again with an expanded version of my typically open mind. If it still doesn’t work for me, which is very rar ...more
Jun 29, 2009 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Doubting my own integrity at liking Borges I started reading this book, which has big blind B's name right on the back. This is Borgesian or Borgesesque, or would it be Borgesish, I don't know, but this book is supposed to populate the same urban terrain as the Blind Bibliophile Bad Boy of Bookish Brilliance (or Bore, depending on your outlook). I don't know why I'm getting alliterative, it's dumb. Anyway, this is like Borges and maybe a little too much like Borges but without the philosophy stu ...more
Michal Ajvaz’s The Other City reminds me of Borges and Kafka of course, more distinctly though of Carter, Shulz, Kubin, and Lovecraft, but especially of Shulz and even of modern fantasists such as Mieville and Vandermeer. The book is a maze of shifting realities, beautiful and ominous images, and parodies of epic poetry, that is a fully enthralling and at times exhausting journey that skews from metaphysical slapstick comedy to psychedelic surrealism without much downtime. You don’t travel here ...more
The Other City is strange and wonderful, a book about seeing, a book about reading. It’s a slim novel, but one to read slowly: it’s full of images that I wanted to linger over. The other city is a shadow-Prague, a nighttime Prague, an underwater Prague, a different city that uses the spaces left empty or ignored by the daytime Prague, and a city with its own culture, customs, objects, religious rituals. Sometimes its signs and objects are seen in the daytime Prague; sometimes there are unexplain ...more
Monica Carter
Jun 15, 2009 Monica Carter rated it really liked it

Michael Ajvaz is a literary magician creating worlds of worlds, worlds of words, worlds of objects. He is the fantastical baby of Borges and Timothy Leary. He is a cartographer on mescaline. He is Czech.

His novel, The Other City, gives us a model novel of magical realism. The anonymous narrator finds a purple spined book on a shelf at a local bookshop written in an unknown language. And there begins his foray into understanding what he does not know, a language from a foreign place and a reality
Mar 03, 2011 Zach rated it it was amazing
This is a mind-blowing book. It works as an abstract meditation on existence, a fabulist fantasy, and in parts almost like an absurd prose poem. The fertile imagination of Ajvaz runs free, but always in service to the bigger themes journeying and homecoming. The translation does a superb job of capturing the flow of the language, with the paragraphs of dialogue, in particular, rolling, accelerating downhill, snowballing in almost stream of consciousness exposition that manages to be poetic at th ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Ilaria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il confine del nostro mondo è una linea con un solo lato, non c'è e non può esserci una strada che dall'interno conduca all'esterno...

L'altra Praga è un romanzo davvero molto particolare che ci conduce in un viaggio attraverso la meravigliosa città di Praga.
Il protagonista della storia, di cui non conosceremo mail il nome, trova in una libreria antiquaria uno strano libro dalla copertina viola e scritto in una lingua sconosciuta. Ammaliato da questa scoperta decide di acquistarlo e di farlo visi
Jan 27, 2016 Elalma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
E' uno di quei libri che sembra scritto sotto l'effetto di sostanze, e dunque, se si è in un momento in cui si desidera sobrietà e logica, può irritare la lettrice o il lettore in cerca di storie anche oniriche ma con una coerenza narrativa. Forse lo si apprezza se si conosce Praga, perché comunque è scritto molto bene, anche se la scrittura risente dell'aura di fantastico che impregna il libro.
Lukas Cabala
Mar 26, 2016 Lukas Cabala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Keď bude vonku v noci pršať a na lesknúcu cestu bude svietiť žlté svetlo pouličnej lampy - vezmite si do postele túto knihu. Už dávno som vám ju chcel ukázať (nech ste ktokoľvek). Hlavný hrdina rozpráva príbeh o meste v meste. Praha za akousi oponou vedomia. Mierne temná, no čarovná atmosféra. Podivné sochy znázorňujúce to, čo sa stalo len včera, zúrivé lasičky, spletitá knižnica v ktorej môžte navždy zablúdiť, mramorová nočná električka a soby na Karlovom moste.

Lenže - možno, keď to budete čít
Oct 27, 2014 Derek rated it really liked it
engaged w/ it here:
Feb 18, 2014 Circus rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to love it because it has so many of the qualities and tropes that I'm usually a sucker for: contemporary magic realism, urban settings, mysterious books, hidden places layered on top of real ones, an unsettling of the familiar by something uncanny. In reading up on Michal Ajvaz I've come across comparisons to Calvino and Borges, two pillars of my literary imagination. The first chapter was promising, my hopes were high.

But Ajvaz goes too far.

I appreciate sur
Jun 21, 2016 Eileen rated it it was amazing
The Other City begins with a book. One snowy afternoon in a used bookstore, the narrator comes across a purple-bound volume written in an unknown language, accompanied by several strange illustrations. He takes it to a scholar, who is immediately unnerved and recommends that he put the book back and forget the whole thing. Instead, our hero's curiosity is intensified, and he quickly finds himself wandering deep down the proverbial rabbit hole. The result is a very Surrealist preoccupation with c ...more
Sep 19, 2014 Bbrown rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, to-reread
An observer can't be part of the world he observes: you can't be detached, uninvested in that world and yet also a part of it, because being a part of something requires you to invest yourself in it. The tourist cannot understand the places he merely passes through, as it's a temporary sojourn for him and a permanent state of being for the people he sees there. You want to understand something, to be a part of something? You have to immerse yourself in it, and not hold anything back, letting go ...more
Mason Jones
Jan 15, 2010 Mason Jones rated it liked it
This is certainly an odd read, but it's worth it. I very much enjoy surrealist literature, but only when the books don't let themselves get too carried away into nonsensicality -- if they lose the plot or focus entirely, then they'll lose me as well. "The Other City" has points where it skirts dangerously close, but then Ajvaz always pulls it back from the edge, and I didn't have any trouble sticking with our nameless first-person protagonist.

The "other city" referred to is a dreamlike flipside
Emily  O
Feb 19, 2012 Emily O rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Emily by: European Literary Classics (ENG 202)
Sometimes a book comes along that knocks me out of complacency and reminds me exactly why I love to read. The Other City by Michal Ajvaz was one of those books. At once incredibly intelligent and captivatingly beautiful, it is a rewarding book for anyone who loves to read beneath the surface and find meaning just beyond the frontier.

After discovering a strange book in an alien language at an antiquarian book store, an unnamed narrator comes into contact with a strange other world, "a place where
Dec 11, 2012 Cleo rated it liked it
I'm not really sure what I think of this book. It's provocative, that's for sure. The Other City is "a guidebook to this invisble 'other Prague', overlapping the workaday world: a place where libraries can turn into jungles, secret passages yawn beneath our feet, and waves lap at our this strange and lovely hymn to Prague, Michal Ajvaz repopulates the city of Kafka with ghosts, eccentrics, talking animals, and impossible statues, all lurking on the peripheries of a town so famili ...more
Ludmila Kovaříková
Feb 09, 2014 Ludmila Kovaříková rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, klasika
Knihá mi blízká vytvořením paralelního světa Druhého města, které se skrývá v zákoutích, která nevidíme, úvahami nad znaky písma (co vlastně v písmu nese význam?), zamyšlením na tím, co jsme vlastně schopni vidět (nikdy nevidíme to, co nespadá do našeho způsobu vidění.) Vadily mi příliš na sebe vrstvené představy, ve kterých se člověk ztrácel, protože za chvíli nedávaly smysl. Závěr jsem příliš nepochopila: proč chtěli zabít "mnicha", když mu kniha stejně dala za pravdu?
Apr 05, 2015 Wim rated it it was amazing
dit is mijn shit mensen. deze man met een overschot aan verbeelding gooit de subtiliteit meteen overboord en overdondert v begin tot einde met waanzinnige beschrijvingen van surreeele objecten en plaatsen, op de ene of de andere manier zonder ook maar 1maal voor willekeur, voorspelbaarheid of makkelijke oplossingen te zwichten. warm aanbevolen
Claire Townsend
Nov 02, 2014 Claire Townsend rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's amazingly surreal and beautifully written. I loved the descriptions of the other city and the thin membrane that separates the two. The description particularly of how the 2 cities overlapped, like in the shadows and corners of bedrooms were really beautiful.
I love Calvino, and I thought this city could be a city within Invisible Cities, as others have said, if you like Kafka, Borges, and Carroll, you'll probably like this book.
My only critisms are I can't say it had an e
Bernarda Lucija
Jun 10, 2016 Bernarda Lucija rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a pretentious load of crap. There are sentences over a page long that say absolutely nothing. So much unconnected words, one after another after another, saying a lot but not really saying anything. I don't mean this as in it was weird and absurd and his train of thought is magnificent! No.
He's trying to sound poetic when in reality just wasting paper.
Terry Barlow
Dec 18, 2015 Terry Barlow rated it it was amazing
Was Told it was a Hard Read. Not Easy to Understand. Had No Problems. Set in Prague. Book is About another World. Hidden just Behind the Real City. Many of the Places Mentioned. I have spent much time there. Found it a Good Book to escape Everyday Life. Think it would have Been. A Very Hard Translate. Will Certainly Read More Books by this Writer & Poet.
Sep 29, 2015 Blanka rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
První ze série ze semináře "Co číst z české literatury". Je to můj druhý Ajvaz a pořád jsem mu upřímně nepřišla na chuť. U pasáží z "druhého města" se fakt těžko drží pozornost, absurditu ve větách sice chápu, ale číst ji 170 stran je prostě moc. Knížka je určitě umně napsaná, ale asi nejsem cílovka.
Libri &
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Mar 21, 2015 Jenny rated it it was ok
This book was like if The Neverending Story went on an acid trip, and the people within the acid trip were taking acid trips about people taking acid trips, only with more adverbs (though maybe that can be blamed on the translator). I had no idea everything could happen so suddenly and slowly. It even had the self-references The Neverending Story had, with the whole purposelessness thing and the wanting to make sense out things thing, but not as appealingly done. For me at least, because clearly ...more
Jan 03, 2015 Carly marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zajímavé pojetí imaginárního druhého města naší Prahy stověžaté.
Ani jsem netušil, že sochy na Karlově mostě jsou duté a plné zvěře. :-D

Určité pasáže se mi zdáli ovšem celkem nudné, při kterých jsem místy usínal.
Jason McDowell
Nov 09, 2015 Jason McDowell rated it liked it
If you're really into that "boundary-pushing" kind of fiction, then this one is for you. Think Borges, Calvino, and the like.

I read it for a class, but it's not my normal style of reading or writing. That said, I thought it was okay and I got some laughs out of the absurdity of it. For me to give three stars on something this out there is saying something.
Dianne Bennett
A difficult read for me but worth it. It is one of those description rich books with multi-page paragraphs and multi-line sentences. I came across it on a list of best Sci-Fi/Fantasy and while I can see why it was given this genre listing it is much more on the lines of a classic serious novel a la Kafka with philosophical musings, imagery for the sake of images and exploration of language for the sheer joy of turning words.
Feb 22, 2014 Yasmeen rated it it was ok
Right, so I'm not entirely sure what happened here. This was... seriously weird. And I don't have a problem with weird. Weird is good. But it has to actually mean something- I felt like I was just reading random thoughts and images that didn't actually have any significance whatsoever. Maybe it's because I haven't actually been to Prague and that's why I couldn't relate, I don't know. It didn't work for me.
Jun 07, 2011 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This story has an "Alice in Wonderland" in Prague feeling, but surprisingly lacking in any real character or charm. The protagonist may as well have been a blank, not necessarily the person you want leading you into an alternate universe/secret society. Even the "other city" isn't really that cool. Disappointing considering how much I am usually into Eastern European authors.
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Michal Ajvaz is a Czech novelist, essayist, poet, and translator. He is a researcher at Prague's Center for Theoretical Studies. In addition to fiction, he has published an essay on Derrida, a book-length meditation on Borges, and a philosophical study on the act of seeing. In 2005, he was awarded the Jaroslav Seifert Prize for his novel Prázdné ulice (Empty Streets).
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“There is an endless chain of cities, a circle without beginning or end, over which there breaks unrelentingly a shifting wave of laws. There is the city-jungle and the city where people live in the pillars of tall viaducts that crisscross each other in countless overpasses and underpasses, the city of sounds and nothing else, the city in the swamp, the city of smooth white balls rolling on concrete, the city comprising apartments spread across several continents, the city where sculptures fall endlessly from dark clouds and smash on the paving stones, the city where the moon’s path passes through the insides of apartments. All cities are mutually the center and periphery, beginning and end, capital and colony of each other.” 4 likes
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