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Prague Prague Prague

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  2,819 ratings  ·  382 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Arthur Phillips's" The Tragedy of Arthur, The Song Is You, The Egyptologist, "and" Angelica."
A first novel ofstartling scope and ambition, Prague depicts an intentionally lost Lost Generation as it follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune--financial, romantic, and spiritual--in a
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Published September 17th 2002 by Random House (first published 2002)
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Ian Heidin-Seek
A Tale of Two Cities

Despite the title, the novel “Prague” is set exclusively in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

A Confession and a Generalisation

First, a confession: I am hopelessly, romantically nostalgic about Hungary, a nation I have never visited.
There is a girl involved, well a woman, and the years were 1978 and 1979.
But you don’t want to know about that. Besides, we would need a few glasses of Bull’s Blood to taste the flavour of those times.
Second: a gross generalization: obviously influ
I'm with the reviewer who wants a medal for finishing this book. It was a slog, during which I kept stopping to read reviews to figure out what on earth I was missing. The promo copy compared the author to Proust and Joyce. Reviewers likened him to Kundera. To me his work resembled nothing more than pretentious freshman ramblings designed to impress writing professors.

I am here to tell you, the emperor has no clothes. This is a boring book, peopled by worthless two-dimensional (and that's being
This paragraph will help you understand whether or not you are going to like Prague. In context, it serves to introduce the five main characters as they begin a game of Sincerity (each person states three lies and one true statement, and players try to determine which is which):

"Well, let's see what's what then," said the inventor and undisputed master of Sincerity. John Price watched Charles stretch his arms around the back of his chair, lace his fingers together, and lean back slightly to perm
Prague promises much more than it actually delivers. I was lured into reading it by the magnitude of praise - it won numerous awards and the reviews were positive, comparing the author to such writers as Kundera and Hemingway, even F. Scott Fitzgerald - unfortunately that's not the case.

The novel is supposed to deal with a group of expatriates who came to Budapest to discover themselves. That's an interesting theme, but it's all what it is - one prologned theme, without suspense. It quickly beco
Jan 11, 2008 Suzy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: former expats, lovers of the written word
Brilliant book. The story follows a group of five expats living in Budapest shortly after the fall of Communism. Each has their own reason for coming (and leaving) and even though little actually *happens* while they're there, it's what they figure out about themselves/life/humanity that's lasting. Anyone who has ever lived abroad will enjoy this book. I found myself remembering so much of what expat life is like through Philips eloquently worded pages. His writing style is so good - I often sim ...more
Feb 06, 2008 Bruce rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: insomniacs
In the early 1990's, the first flourish of "Generation X" novels started getting published. Writers like Douglas Coupland, Bret Easton Ellis, and Jay McInerney composed incredibly self-conscious, pretentious novels and imagined themselves the voice of a generation. What they were, in large part, was a squeaky reiteration of a far more compelling earlier cultural icon: upon closer examination, it became clear that, apparently, Generation X was almost entirely composed of squeaky-voiced Holden Cau ...more
Nov 02, 2007 Ben rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gen-X expats
If you've ever met anyone who's been to Europe, you'll understand the humor behind these delightfully loathsome characters. Not a bad book, funny at times, annoying at others.

I liked it, but I have to admit that had I not been delayed in the airport in Nice, I never would have gotten as far as I did. Once I got home to the States I put it down for good.

4/5 of the way finished. Good read for a beach vacation in France. Not much of a page-turner though.

Actually, fuck it. It's a damn snooze fest.
I really wanted to love this book since I am 1/4 Hungarian and feel vaguely cheated by my college's having not really endorsed study abroad until after I graduated. In addition, the concept was quite original and the author seemed very charming when I interacted with him once (and I'd already paid for my book so it wasn't cupboard love, at least, not entirely). However, I found the characters somewhat annoying and I didn't really care what happened to them. The best part of the book was the desc ...more
The blurb on the cover of my copy of this book, a quote from the NY Times, hovering impressively above the title, says, "Ingenious.. Phillips presents his characters with a wry generosity and haunting poingnancy to rival his wonderfully subversive wit."

To this I say "Whatever".

I was completely irritated by this book from start to finish. It was suffused by this whole eyebrows-sardonically-raised-at-everything-hipsters-too-cool-to-betray-any-enthusiasm-for-anything thing that I find insufferabl
On Arthur Phillips’ website, the following pivotal passage is included in the synopsis of Prague, his first novel:

"What does it mean to fret about your fledgling career when the man across the table was tortured by two different regimes? How does your short, uneventful life compare to the lives of those who actually resisted, fought, and died? What does your angst mean in a city still pocked with bullet holes from war and crushed rebellion?"

These words are placed in the mouths of the novel’s pri
I deserve a big, fat, chocolate-covered "I told you so." Arthur Phillips' "Prague" is, interesting-wise, the exact inverse of his most-recent novel "The Song is You," interesting-wise.

Damn if I didn't fall hard in the early chapters, which find a handful of 20-something ex-pats in Budapest in 1990: John, the laid back, love-lorn accidental journalist has followed his brother Scott, a formerly obese exercise-hound who's desire to shed pounds equals his desire to shed his past, Emily, a plain-old
This is a book that I want to give 5 stars; it is full of intelligent, witty commentary and done artfully (if slightly gimmicky with the lists and the “business master’s questions”). But it was just too boring. Phillips is so damn full of himself (going so far as to title the book Prague, even though it was set in Budapest as a simultaneous comment about the inter-changeability of everything and a nod to the Utopian ideal) and verbose at times (the lists of descriptions made me want to vomit upo ...more
Less than two weeks after I read this novel I was crossing the Danube with the woman I would soon marry. Happenstance, possibly, but the trepidation felt in the novel on the Chain Bridge was echoed in my own experience.

There is thus an aspect of Arthur Phillips which I would love to thank for distilling such a moment, allowing it to suspend and pulse, thus securing it in my mind on that sunny Hungarian afternoon.
overdone and overwritten.
A book that doesn't say much of anything, but what it says it says beautifully and with a broad and pervasive irony. Some of the writing is so good that I was just delighted, loved it. The story, if one can call it that, is set in Budapest, Hungary in 1990/91; Prague doesn't come in to it except as a more desirable location. There are some young people from other countries, mostly Americans. One works at the embassy, one works in finance trying to find Hungarian businesses that are worthy of Ame ...more
Ron Charles
If the Age of Irony reached its comic peak with David Eggers and Jonathan Franzen, it's grown to full maturity in the debut work of a young man named Arthur Phillips. Yes, ironically, the apotheosis of coolness is a novel about Budapest called "Prague" by a Midwesterner who lives in Paris.

In a story of devastating emotional accuracy, striking intelligence, and irrepressible wit, Phillips follows five friends through Hungary in 1990. Here is a lost generation that knows it's a lost generation, a
I found this book ironic and somewhat interesting mostly because of the crcumstances in which I read it. I picked this up in a book store right before I left for Europe where I struggled for a few weeks on which cities to visit. I chose Prague and ended up passing on Budapest. This entire book takes place in Budapest and is entitled Prague only to further the main theme, which centers on the emotion of life being elsewhere. It's a "grass is greener" feeling that Phillips explains as: "if only I ...more
Nancy Oakes
Frankly, I am totally amazed by the number of people who absolutely hated this book. I thought it was excellent, and even though it took me about a week to read it, when I would have to put it down I couldn't wait to get back to it. Would I recommend it? Yes. It is an intense book, though, and I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone -- it would be for those who aren't in any hurry for action or expect that the author is just going to tell you up front what the book is going to be about. This is d ...more
Rowland Bismark
Arthur Phillips first book is a gem. It is 1990 in Budapest and the fall of the Soviet Union has freed Turkey and caused a rush of expats: some running in with venture capital, some with political purposes, some blown by the winds of happenstance and many following the artistic nose that continually draws them to the very place history is unfolding. That place is ever changing and for some in Budapest in 1990 the fear was that they were missing the real action that was happening in Prague. Hence ...more
I "read" "Prague" via CD on a long car drive over several days. The interesting thing about hearing a book is that you can't skip over sentences and paragraphs of description as you can when actually reading. This meant that I actually had to listen to Phillips' long paragraphs of description, and I'm glad I did. (Sometimes, instead, I skip over this kind of writing the first time I read a book--I want to know what happens!) He uses language in a beautiful and sometimes extraordinary way. It may ...more
Jun 14, 2009 Eleanor rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Recent Central European Travelers
Recommended to Eleanor by: LJ Martin
If all of this book had been like the first section it would have gotten four stars easily, no problem. I loved the vivid descriptions of recently Post-Communist Budapest and the quirky, yet believable characters. However, Arthur Phillips tried far too hard to impose a "meaningful" narrative structure on this novel and as a result it got boring and tedious. I kept reading mostly because I wanted him to recover the perfectness of the first section. No such luck. Instead my favorite character disa ...more
Eveline Chao
I borrowed this from a friend of mine, who said as she handed it to me, "Actually, you can keep this - I kind of hated it. Everyone in it was so annoying - I was just like, stop whining." After reading it, I can definitely see what she was talking about, but despite all its flaws -- very wink-wink surfacey razzle dazzle without a whole lot of psychological depth -- I still really enjoyed it. I guess because just the surface alone was still impressive and amazingly detailed and entertaining, and ...more
Prague is a novel whose title sets the tone for Arthur Phillips’ wry style: the understimulated American/Canadian expatriates at the centre of the book spend the year 1990 in Budapest – despite the fact that everyone they meet is quick to tell them that Prague is where things are really happening.

Phillips’ ironical sense of humour zings through the novel. Perhaps it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I found his love of the absurd to be utterly delightful. The characters are warm and interesting – e
It took me a while to read this book, which should mean I've had plenty of time to think about my review of it. I'm not sure it worked out that way, but here's what I thought this book did well:

1) Evoke a sense of place: I've never been to Budapest, but I'd love to go, especially after reading this book. Phillips does a great job of not just describing the city, but the country, its people and how it was evolving during the early 1990s.

2) Characters: While the characters weren't all likable (far
I'm still not so sure about Arthur Phillips. "The Song is You" was ultimately unsatisfying and somewhat aggravating. "Prague" was a more coherent book, and Phillips didn't cheat me on the ending the way he did in "TSiY", so I didn't finish the book and scream and throw it across the room, but there's something dodgy about Phillips. He's a talented writer but doesn't always seem too concerned about making sure his reader is actually satisfied or pleased with the way his books turn out. "Prague" i ...more
Reading this book felt like trudging through mud while wearing iron chains around my neck. It took everything in me to keep reading and finish this before Christmas. And yet. And yet now that I'm finished I feel a bit nostalgic to leave behind these characters who never seem to do anything at all. Their experiences led up to nothing and were so poorly interwoven together that most of the time I had no idea whose story I was reading. (And I honestly couldn't have cared less) Yet, this book does d ...more
upper-middle-class american twentysomethings come of age obnoxiously in budapest directly after the fall of communism. as a hungarian, i am left with a slightly unpleasant taste in my mouth despite phillips' "i'm joking/i'm not joking/but really, i swear, i'm joking/okay, now start digging for my actual meaning" business up in this book and the two years he spent in budapest that clearly qualify him to talk trash/not talk trash/really, it's talking trash/but no seriously, he's making insightful ...more
So I got suckered in by the comparison to Kundera. Wrong! This book was a struggle to get through and maybe I should have quit was back in the beginning but I have this thing about finishing. I have to finish what I start. (Which is why I don't start unless I know I can finish.)

Anyway, this book was NOT about Prague but about Budapest. So why title it Prague? I guess the author was being clever. Too clever for me because I was half way through and re-read the review to realize John Price was the
Wasn't sure I would stick with this after the first fourth, but I'm glad I did. I would describe "Prague" as "The Sun Also Rises," set in the 1990's to be read by people after 2005 or so. The real hook is in the title: if this book is called "Prague," then why is it set in Budapest, Hungary? If you keep asking yourself that, then you won't miss what Arthur Phillips is trying to say.

My criteria for books that really move me is whether I keep them for further enjoyment or pondering. This highly acclaimed book I had to let go.

The story begins with a mind game played by a number of participants - as if a game of cards - the author using this opening to introduce his characters. Following said opening, he offers the reader vignette after vignette, scattered moments of expatriate life in Budapest (and no, the book seems to simply drift toward Prague) even as it stumbles toward a
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Discussions at the E: Resources for Discussion (Author: Arthur Phillips) 1 1 Dec 10, 2014 12:00PM  
  • The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers, #9)
  • A Dangerous Man (Hank Thompson, #3)
  • Snowbound
  • Free-Range Chickens
  • Magic Prague
  • The Babysitter's Code
  • Stranded with a Spy (Code Name: Danger #11)
  • Price of Passion
  • The Whiskey Rebels
  • Mighty Hammer Down
  • Summer's Path
  • Return Engagement (Settling Accounts, #1)
  • The Life and Loves of April Johnson
  • Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands: Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership
  • Paradise Alley
  • Uncubicled Part 1
  • The Empress of One
  • His Lady Mistress
The Egyptologist The Tragedy of Arthur The Song is You Angelica Ecclesiastical Law

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“It was so much easier to be alone, if one could find just the right location.” 14 likes
“Every secret is a wrinkle.” 6 likes
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