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The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz
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Jun 12, 10

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in June, 2010

Ajvaz, Michal. THE GOLDEN AGE. (2001; this edition in translation, 2010). **. This was a pick for our reading group so I forced myself to at least get to page 150 – about half-way through. I had to stop. My feeling is that with all the good books out there, why kill myself reading something that I don’t enjoy. The author is a Czech novelist, essayist, poet and translator. He has written other works, but only one has been translated into English besides this one. This book is a kind of travelogue of an island in the Atlantic peopled by islanders who conform to no known form of Eastern or Western civilizations. They seem to sit around all day and do nothing, except stare at different shapes and/or colors. They draw no distinction between reality (as we define it) and its representation, so that a mirror image of an object is as substantial as the object itself. Their religion consists of conferring visually and mentally with a variety of stains that are on the walls of their houses and official buildings. Their form of government is a sort of a regency, whereby a king is elected, but nobody is quite sure of the election process and of whom the honor ultimately goes to. What makes it even more confusing is that the people may not know the name of their current king because the names of people change with different situations. The center of their culture is revealed to be “The Book,” a handwritten novel consisting of tales of feuding royal families, secret cabals, mysterious appearences of wizards and compound animals, etc. Even this, though, becomes a mystery in itself because in addition to the languange changing significantly over time, the book itself contains pockets into which are stuffed additional subtexts that have been added over time. Apparently, the islanders can add to the book at any time, and their additions don’t have to have anything to do with what might have gone before. The book is like Gulliver’s Travels, but without the humor and social commentary. This is more like a travelogue of chaos from a fertile mind, but one which should be carefully watched.
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