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Prague

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3.06  ·  Rating Details ·  3,278 Ratings  ·  440 Reviews
A novel of startling 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. They harbor the vague suspicion that their counterparts in Prague have it better, but still they hope to find adventure, inspiration, a gold rush, or history in the making.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 10th 2003 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2002)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 12, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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?"

 photo Budapest20City20of20Grit_zps0oii0pxl.jpg
Budapest: City of Grit

John Price left California for Budapest in search of adventure, but also to reconnect to his older brother Scott. When he was younger, Scott was a
...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Feb 23, 2011 Ian "Marvin" Graye rated it really liked it
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
...more
Lp
Aug 03, 2007 Lp rated it did not like it
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
...more
Maciek
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
...more
Amy
Aug 28, 2015 Amy rated it did not like it
No one cares about your boner, John. NO. ONE.
You are boring and whiny and mistakenly think groinal longings are a substitute for deep introspection. I don't blame your brother for hating you. You seem like a paltry rewriting, an id, of the author. I can think of no other reason why Phillips would find it necessary to focus on you. In the real world, you would never get laid, but rather become an MRA, wear a fedora, and end up shooting someone because your privilege and entitlement taught you you
...more
Bruce
Feb 06, 2008 Bruce rated it did not like it
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
Kurt
Nov 09, 2012 Kurt rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Suzy
Jan 11, 2008 Suzy rated it it was amazing
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
Ben
Nov 02, 2007 Ben rated it liked it
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.
...more
Karen
Jul 15, 2015 Karen rated it liked it
This is one of those books that I had to force myself to keep reading and then was glad I did. Some memorable characters and moments and some great lines. But also not much of a plot and quite a few flashy sentences where it felt like the author was just showing off and intruding on his own work in the process.
Tracy Sherman
Jun 29, 2015 Tracy Sherman rated it liked it
The best way to encapsulate this book is with the words of the great observer of human nature Robert Benchley in his wonderful short piece 'Christmas Afternoon', "In the first place, there was the ennui. And such ennui as it was! A heavy, overpowering ennui, such as results from a participation in eight courses of steaming, gravied food, topping off with salted nuts which the little old spinster Gummidge from Oak Hill said she never knew when to stop eating--and true enough she didn't--a draggin ...more
Bruce
Jan 26, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
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
...more
CLM
Jun 27, 2008 CLM rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Daniel Simmons
May 16, 2015 Daniel Simmons rated it liked it
I have very much enjoyed other books by this author ("The Egyptologist" and "The Tragedy of Arthur" in particular). Phillips is a writer who wears his smarts on his sleeve, which can induce both admiration and frustration from me depending on my mood and my concentration. I found this book to be slow going, perhaps because the narrative sometimes mirrors the aimlessness of its main characters, but there are scenes of undeniable greatness; the second section in particular, about the history of th ...more
Jonfaith
Jun 17, 2010 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
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.
William
Jun 28, 2015 William rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. Minus one star for being heavy-handed at times.
Ron Charles
Nov 12, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
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
christa
Jun 07, 2009 christa rated it it was ok
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
...more
Amanda
Jan 27, 2008 Amanda rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Xon
Apr 22, 2010 Xon rated it liked it
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
Eszter
Dec 09, 2009 Eszter rated it it was ok
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
Sharon
Feb 12, 2009 Sharon rated it did not like it
Shelves: e-book
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
...more
Paul Secor
Jul 07, 2011 Paul Secor rated it it was ok
Annoying American generation-Xers living in Budapest in the very early 1990's. The only interesting character in the book is somewhat of a cliche - an elderly female jazz pianist/singer who tells some great stories. It turns out that her stories probably are lies, but they're good stories, nonetheless.

Diana
Feb 21, 2009 Diana rated it did not like it
overdone and overwritten.
Sheri
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
Nicola
Jun 08, 2009 Nicola rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
...more
Shannon
Apr 11, 2009 Shannon rated it liked it
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
...more
Rowland Bismark
Jul 27, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it liked it
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
Daisy
I remember being so disappointed in this book but I feel like giving it another try because I want to see its version of Budapest, having just finished (and loved) Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts. So here I am, over a decade later, going at this a second time.

Either I never finished it the first time around or I skimmed it or something because nothing at all was familiar to me this tim
...more
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“It was so much easier to be alone, if one could find just the right location.” 16 likes
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