In these two audacious novellas, Americans abroad find that losing themselves in another culture can be dangerous Invited to Prague's first annual Kafka conference to read from his play about the great Czech writer, a playwright named Landau finds himself upstaged by Jiri Krakauer, the dashing Holocaust survivor whose claim to fame is a long-ago ...
In these two audacious novellas, Americans abroad find that losing themselves in another culture can be dangerous Invited to Prague's first annual Kafka conference to read from his play about the great Czech writer, a playwright named Landau finds himself upstaged by Jiri Krakauer, the dashing Holocaust survivor whose claim to fame is a long-ago death-camp love affair with Kafka's sister. On a visit to the camp, Landau attempts to prove that Krakauer is lying--risking his career to destroy that of another. On the other side of Europe, Nina and Leo go on a macabre tour of their own. A guidebook editor and his besotted assistant, they are enduring a miserable French vacation when Leo suggests a "Paris Death Trip," taking in catacombs, prisons, and all the darkest corners of the City of Light. In these two novellas, Francine Prose skewers Americans abroad.
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Publishers Weekly, 1996-10-28 The ego is a slippery thing. Suppress it and it sneaks in through the back door all the stronger. In the two deftly written novellas included in this volume, Prose (Hunters and Gatherers) creates funny, brilliantly authentic examples of this resilient truth. In the title piece, Landau, a mediocre New York playwright attending a conference on Kafka in Prague, tours a Nazi death camp. Aware that there is "something by definition obscene about guided tours of hellŠexcept, of course, if you're Dante,'' he nonetheless spends his time consumed with self-conscious envy of a fellow writer at the conference, Jiri Krakauer, a big, handsome, charismatic Auschwitz survivor. Landau obsesses about Jiri, "Mr. Zest-For-Life,'' as he struggles to manufacture a feeling or a reflection that might be appropriate to a death camp that has become a theme park. Jiri reminds Landau that under all of Landau's layers of intellectualization and overdramatization, he pines for a life that has meaning. In "Three Pigs in Five Days,'' Nina, a young writer, holes up in a dumpy Paris hotel room, unable to face the city without Leo, her editor and lover. "Although they've been lovers for months, he apparently wasn't someone she knew well enough to ask'' why he has sent her there alone, Nina realizes. Venturing out at last, Nina understands that she has sacrificed herself and her own dreams to his self-protective version of reality. These small, wonderfully well-observed tales bubble with the energy of real adventure and discovery. Prose has done what only the best writers can do: she shows us something new about the subtle peek-a-boo game we play with reality. Author tour; rights: Georges Borchardt. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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