I’m a sucker for writers reminiscing about cities they know and love, and this issue of Eurozine feeds that craving. Levente Polyák in “Coherent fragmentation” provides a good summary of what’s special about Central Europe:
If a city is text, then the Central European city is hypertext. Street names and even parts of cities have no choice but to bear the names of other parts of the region – think of the Krakovo district of Ljubljana or the Praga district of Warsaw. It is the Central European mix of languages, words, signs and melodies which crystallizes in urban space, with the theatres scattered over the territory of the Monarchy in the style of the Fellner and Hellmer workshop, or the startling buildings of Joze Plecnik. Perhaps it’s the notion of “radical eclecticism”, which the architect László Rajk used to try to put into words Budapest’s architectural traditions and sources of inspiration, refers to these temporal and spatial wanderings of symbols. An alternative city guide describes Warsaw as an “eclectic cocktail”.
I particularly recommend Jirí Trávnícek’s article on “Brno and its literary image,” which suggests that Brno has poetry but not much else in the way of literature (the two stories that native son Milan Kundera devoted to it were removed from his collected works), and Juraj Spitzer’s “Castle, cathedral and river: The soul of Bratislava,” which laments the destruction of much of the old multicultural Prespork and describes the author’s astonishment on coming to the city from mountainous central Slovakia some sixty years ago. (If you can’t stand urban nostalgia, please ignore this post!)