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The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Derek Sayer
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Kurzbeschreibung

28. Februar 2000
In "The Winter's Tale", Shakespeare gave the landlocked country of Bohemia a coastline - a famous and, to Czechs, typical example of foreigners' ignorance of the Czech homeland. Although the lands that were once the Kingdom of Bohemia lie at the heart of Europe, Czechs are usually encountered only in the margins of other people's stories. In "The Coasts of Bohemia", Derek Sayer reverses this perspective. He presents a comprehensive and long-needed history of the Czech people that is also a remarkably original history of modern Europe, told from its uneasy center. Sayer shows that Bohemia has long been a theater of European conflict. It has been a cradle of Protestantism and a bulwark of the Counter-Reformation; an Austrian imperial province and a proudly Slavic national state; the most easterly democracy in Europe; and a westerly outlier of the Soviet bloc. The complexities of its location have given rise to profound (and often profoundly comic) reflections on the modern condition. Franz Kafka, Jaroslav Hasek, Karel Capek and Milan Kundera are all products of its spirit of place. Sayer describes how Bohemia's ambiguities and contradictions are those of Europe itself, and he considers the ironies of viewing Europe, the West, and modernity from the vantage point of a country that has been too often ignored. "The Coasts of Bohemia" draws on an enormous array of literary, musical, visual, and documentary sources ranging from banknotes to statues, museum displays to school textbooks, funeral orations to operatic stage-sets, murals in subway stations to censors' indexes of banned books. It brings us into intimate contact with the ever changing details of daily life - the street names and facades of buildings, the heroes figured on postage stamps - that have created and recreated a sense of what it is to be Czech. Sayer's sustained concern with questions of identity, memory, and power place the book at the heart of contemporary intellectual debate. It is an extraordinary story, beautifully told.

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Produktinformation

  • Taschenbuch: 464 Seiten
  • Verlag: Princeton Univ Pr; Auflage: Revised. (28. Februar 2000)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 069105052X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691050522
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 23,5 x 15,6 x 2,9 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 269.147 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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In The Winter's Tale, a play of 1610, William Shakespeare gave a coastline to Bohemia, a landlocked country. Three hundred and twenty-eight years later, his compatriot Neville Chamberlain would call a brewing war in Czechoslovakia, as the country was called, "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing." As Canadian scholar Sayer writes, knowingly, Bohemia eventually got its coastline, one "guarded by minefields, barbed-wire fences, and tall watchtowers with machine guns," while the West took little notice. The general ignorance of all things Czech would cost Europe dearly, for conflagrations from the Thirty Years War to World War II (and even sparks that might have ignited World War III) have begun in the tiny country known by many names---Czechoslovakia, Bohemia, Moravia. Canadian scholar Sayer writes of the Czechs' struggle over centuries to define themselves as a people and nation, and he does so in a vivid, detailed narrative that will enlighten readers who are unfamiliar with the critically important center of Eastern Europe. --Gregory McNamee -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

Pressestimmen

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1998 "[Derek Sayer's The Coasts of Bohemia] is an ambitious, elegantly written, and sympathetic account of the art, the literature and the politics of the Czech people... Sayer saunters gracefully and with sure footing back and forth across centuries of Czech religion, mythology, and history, displaying enthusiasm and engagement but immune to the usual self-serving national illusions... His book is a delight."--Tony Judt, The New Republic "A rich and intricate story... Excellent ... the most stimulating introduction to [its] subject available in English, or ... any other language."--R.J.W. Evans, New York Review of Books "Sayer's penetrating and balanced discussion of Czech political and cultural history should spare us from ever again thinking of the central European place as 'a far away country'."--Stan Persky, Vancouver Sun "A masterful essay on the ironies and tragedies of both the cultural history of the Czechs and Czech culture's history of its own past."--Steven Beller, The Times Literary Supplement

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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Academic history-writing at its best. 30. Juni 1998
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a marvelous book. It is far and away the best single work available to English-speaking readers with an interest in Czech history and culture. It also more than merits the attention of anyone with an interest in Central Europe, the Western invention known as "Eastern Europe," European cultural history, or cultural history generally.
Sayer is quite convincing in making his major arguments: that the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia are rightly viewed as having stood for centuries at the center of European history; that Czech national identity, created virtually from scratch in the 19th century, exemplifies a complexly and authentically modern process of self-invention; and that the echoes, ironies, and reversals of Czech history hold valuable lessons for Westerners whose notions of "Eastern European" exoticism and backwardness are rivaled, in their ingenuousness, only by our belief in history as progress. He shows in vivid detail how history and historically derived notions of collective identity are refracted in the service of politics and power--and not only by totalitarian regimes. (In one of the book's most disturbingly persuasive sections, Sayer shows how Communism--far from being the wholly alien import that many Czechs would now prefer to see it as--took root in soil that had been well, if unwittingly, prepared by 150 years of often liberal Czech nationalist ideology.) Throughout "The Coasts of Bohemia," he provides a lavishly and (one comes to understand) lovingly detailed journey through the collective psyche of a fascinating nation--though Sayers' love for the Czechs and for Czech culture, we also come to suspect, is fiercely complicated and deeply ambivalent.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Another Rave for "Coasts"! 5. Mai 2000
Von Ein Kunde
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I can only agree with the eloquent rave of the first reader review. COASTS OF BOHEMIA is a miracle. It sweeps through Czech history, presenting a marvelous depth of historical detail while always remaining thoroughly readable, even beautiful, and exciting. Most of all I was impressed with the way in which the author so persuasively demonstrated a remarkable thesis: that a history so unique, particular, and extraordinary could show us things about European history in general that we had not seen before. A MUST READ for those interested in the area. Another perspective, also arguing for the broad and general implications of a very particular history, is offered in the book PRAGUE TERRITORIES. Both books argue for the contingency of national identity, the former relating it to the selfconsciously invented (reinvented?) Czech cultural "Renaissance" of the 19th century, the latter to the incredible creativity of the small group of Prague German Jews around Franz Kafka. PRAGUE IN BLACK AND GOLD presents the long sweep of Prague history in terms of eternal bloody conflict--ultimately a narrower thesis than the other two but a good introduction to Prague history, Czech and German. MAGICAL PRAGUE is a romantic journey through a cliche, a fun read but it never analyzes the "mystical" image of Prague but only reproduces it. All three of the above books are antidotes to this. But for a history of the Czech nation that enlightens European history generally, no book lives up to Derek Sayer's.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 von 5 Sternen  12 Rezensionen
68 von 71 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Academic history-writing at its best. 30. Juni 1998
Von Daniel Penrice (dpenrice@ma.ultranet.com) - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a marvelous book. It is far and away the best single work available to English-speaking readers with an interest in Czech history and culture. It also more than merits the attention of anyone with an interest in Central Europe, the Western invention known as "Eastern Europe," European cultural history, or cultural history generally.
Sayer is quite convincing in making his major arguments: that the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia are rightly viewed as having stood for centuries at the center of European history; that Czech national identity, created virtually from scratch in the 19th century, exemplifies a complexly and authentically modern process of self-invention; and that the echoes, ironies, and reversals of Czech history hold valuable lessons for Westerners whose notions of "Eastern European" exoticism and backwardness are rivaled, in their ingenuousness, only by our belief in history as progress. He shows in vivid detail how history and historically derived notions of collective identity are refracted in the service of politics and power--and not only by totalitarian regimes. (In one of the book's most disturbingly persuasive sections, Sayer shows how Communism--far from being the wholly alien import that many Czechs would now prefer to see it as--took root in soil that had been well, if unwittingly, prepared by 150 years of often liberal Czech nationalist ideology.) Throughout "The Coasts of Bohemia," he provides a lavishly and (one comes to understand) lovingly detailed journey through the collective psyche of a fascinating nation--though Sayers' love for the Czechs and for Czech culture, we also come to suspect, is fiercely complicated and deeply ambivalent.
It should also be said that Sayers' book is just about a perfect model of what a scholarly book should be: massively detailed but carefully, even dramatically, shaped and organized; filled with concrete particulars but always letting the reader see their relation to the grand themes; stringen! tly reasoned but deeply felt; and extremely well written, illustrated, annotated, and indexed. In all, an extremely intelligent, learned, and sophisticated book that is also a great read.
32 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Another Rave for "Coasts"! 5. Mai 2000
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I can only agree with the eloquent rave of the first reader review. COASTS OF BOHEMIA is a miracle. It sweeps through Czech history, presenting a marvelous depth of historical detail while always remaining thoroughly readable, even beautiful, and exciting. Most of all I was impressed with the way in which the author so persuasively demonstrated a remarkable thesis: that a history so unique, particular, and extraordinary could show us things about European history in general that we had not seen before. A MUST READ for those interested in the area. Another perspective, also arguing for the broad and general implications of a very particular history, is offered in the book PRAGUE TERRITORIES. Both books argue for the contingency of national identity, the former relating it to the selfconsciously invented (reinvented?) Czech cultural "Renaissance" of the 19th century, the latter to the incredible creativity of the small group of Prague German Jews around Franz Kafka. PRAGUE IN BLACK AND GOLD presents the long sweep of Prague history in terms of eternal bloody conflict--ultimately a narrower thesis than the other two but a good introduction to Prague history, Czech and German. MAGICAL PRAGUE is a romantic journey through a cliche, a fun read but it never analyzes the "mystical" image of Prague but only reproduces it. All three of the above books are antidotes to this. But for a history of the Czech nation that enlightens European history generally, no book lives up to Derek Sayer's.
23 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Bright but Isolated Star 21. Oktober 2001
Von Janice M. Albert - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
In The Coasts of Bohemia, Derek Sayers tells us how social values are invented and reinterpreted by those with the will and the power to do so, a study of Bohemian history with broader applications. He writes to clarify and contextualize social movements in the Czech lands from before the Hussites to the modern period, but the reader learns late in the book that his passion owes something to the cooperative assistance of his wife, whose father was a professor lost to the world of learning when he was removed by the Nazis as they closed the universities in Czechoslovakia in the 40s.
The book is a bright but isolated star in the realm of scholarship that explains the Czech lands and people to the citizens of the United States. Sayers has a firm grasp on the little things, "the quotidian," that make up cultural identity, but it is his writing style and his ability to weave small points into major themes that makes the book such a masterpiece.
I note with mixed feelings that Sayers works and teaches in Canada. The English-speaking world's gain; America's loss.
24 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Misleadingly titled 21. Dezember 2003
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
The book's subtitle is "A Czech History," but people looking for a general history of the Czech lands will be disappointed. Sayer focuses not on battlefields and parliaments but on art, literature and historiography. He either completely ignores or barely mentions such topics as the world wars, the Munich Pact and the Communist coup while devoting dozens of pages to poets, artists and critics. Thus, despite the rather esoteric nature of Czech history, Sayer assumes readers already know the basics. I guess a title like "The Humanities and Czech Identity, 1620-1960" wouldn't sell as well.
15 von 16 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Poetic scholarship! 19. Dezember 2005
Von B. Berthold - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Anybody wanting to gain a deeper knowledge of the Czech people, Czech culture, and Czech spirit should read Derek Sayer's 'The Coasts of Bohemia.' Anybody wanting to dive into the sticky mess of Central European history would also do well to read this book. And those unbelievers who think that a scholarly work must be by its very nature dry and dense, MUST read this book.

Sayer's work stands alone in the veritable dearth of good works dealing with Czechdom. A towering mountain, 'Coasts' is far and away the best door to a culture and nation little understood in the 'West.' In this monumental work, Sayer continues in the grand tradition of Czech historiography started by the grand master of Czech history, Palácky. And like Palácky before him, Sayer attempts to give an answer to that elusive question: Who are the Czechs?

Starting his work with the formulators of written Czech, Josef Jungmann and Josef Dobrovsky, Sayer makes a wise decision. During the Hapsburg rule from 1620 to 1918, the only real home of Czechdom was Cestina, the Czech language. From there, Sayer takes the reader on a serpintine journey through the heart of Czech cultural consciousness. We meet up with poets of the national awakening like Karel Hynek Macha, whose epic poem, 'Máj,' could easily be considered the Czech people's Aeneid, a work that defines who they are as a voice in the cacophony of Europe. Critics of culture like F.X. Salda and voices of modernism in Czech culture like Kundera or the Noble Prize-winning poet, Jaroslav Seifert, also make appearances as Sayer makes a case for the Czech artistic voice being paramount in the creation of national identity. Sayer shows how even supposedly 'international' art trends like surrealism and social-realism all served a very selective end: the search for national identity.

In the realm of politics and ideology, Sayer argues that the Czechs have pursued an uniquely singular course throughout their history. The first people in Europe to rebel against catholic uniformity (hence the term 'bohemian'), Czech preacher, Jan Hus, laid the groundwork for Luther's more cathartic 'reformation.' The followers of Hus, the 'Hussites' not only preached a more Gospel-centered Christian creed stripped of the Roman church's ceremony and tradition, but promoted a lifestyle of radical egaliterianism. This conception of a rank-less society more than anything irked the Catholic Hapsburgs who waged a long and savage war with the Hussites until 1620 when the Austrian Hapsburgs put their unruly neighbors under the boot of Catholic rule until the demise of Austro-Hungary in 1918. Sayer argues that the coals of Hussiterian democracy never cooled down completely but instead smoldered on until the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This grand social experiment led by the teacher-ideologue, Tomas Masaryk, proved to be Central Europe's only real democracy during the years between both world wars. Yet, Sayer makes a strong claim that Hussitism only gained full resurrection (albeit in a radically perverse form) with the ascension to power of the Czech Communist Party in 1948. The Hussite dream of a radical levelling of all economic and social class was made real with the party's drastic restructuring of Czech society which included the violent expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from the Czech lands, the shameful odsun of 1946-47. Czech communists soon took their ideology of 'people's democracy' to such radical extremes that they stamped out all forms of dissent in their quest to create uniform Czech society. Kundera's novels paint a grim picture of a society which sought to regulate, control and oppress its citizens in even the most intimate of spheres.

By the time the reader finishes 'Coasts,' he/she will not only be wiser by far, but quite exhausted as well. The sheer detail and volume of Sayer's information threatens at times to overwhelm the reader. That one quarter of the book is devoted to 'notes' is not by chance. Yet, even these notes are fascinating cultural and historical tidbits. If Sayer's work has a flaw, it lies in the author's selection of material. Selection is the most crucial (and most difficult) element of historiography. What to include, what to exclude, not only makes or breaks a work, but also carries echoes for generations to come. Who and what is left out of the history books is often doomed to oblivion in day to day life as well. Thus said, Sayer's work attempts to define Czechness around a deliberately tiny base. That of one province, Bohemia. While Bohemia did suffer the lion's share of conflict with the neighboring Germans as well as play a central role in the national awakening, two other Czech lands, Moravia and Czech Silesia have also played crucial roles in the formation of Czech identity. Some of the most internationally-known Czech artists originate from these parts i.e. Kundera, Janácek, Lysohorsky and even Mucha. Unfortunately, Sayer glosses over the cultural and historical connections with these lesser-known Bohemias. Moreover, his treatment of Slovakia's role in the making of the Czech nation and Czechoslovak 'idea' is cursory at best. A grievious absence considering the prominent role many Slovaks have played in Czech political life from Masaryk to Dubcek.

All in all though, there is little room to complain. Sayer's work has filled a gapping hole in Central European studies. A profound act of scholarship and one written in a style approaching the lyric, 'The Coasts of Bohemia' is a giant indeed. Read it!
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