Spotsalots's Reviews > The Seven Churches: A Gothic Novel of Prague

The Seven Churches by Miloš Urban
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's review
Jun 05, 2012

bookshelves: czech, crime, fiction
Read on June 05, 2012 — I own a copy

This unusual book initially appears to be a crime novel set in Prague circa 2000--the narrator is a failed policeman drawn back into police work through having been on the scene to rescue a man hung by the Achilles tendon from a church bell. However, while it continues to be about this and other crimes (mostly a series of bizarre murders), it cannot really be said to fit any genre very well. The ex-policeman is a shy, unhappy failed historian (he was more interested in how people lived than in political history and dates, so he dropped out of the university and nearly became a priest before going into the police); he also has periodic psychic experiences in which he sees life in the 14th century.

The book is atmospheric and spooky, somewhat apocalyptic, as the narrator and the knight who employs him show an increasing hatred for modern life and a desire to return Prague's New Town (originally built in the 14th century) to its original state. The extent to which the novel entirely succeeds is in my opinion uncertain. I feel I want to like it more than I actually do, but unquestionably it's a provocative tale with a boldly bizarre ending.

I should add that it's a particularly odd book to read when one has been skimming through various works by Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic, especially Gotická duše, which basically follows a protagonist obsessed with gothic churches in his wandering around Prague. Presumably Miloš Urban had Karásek at least partly in mind.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey Fox If it weren't for you, I wouldn't know anything about Czech literature beyond Kafka and Kundera. Thanks for your bulletins.

message 2: by Spotsalots (new) - added it

Spotsalots I wish more was available in translation (and now that Heim has died, we've lost a major translator from Czech). I found very few new English translations of Czech literature on the Prague shelves this summer. Twisted Spoon publishes translations of Central European literature, but relatively few. As they're based in Prague, you could probably get them fairly easily in Spain.

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