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Harbouring his private collection of Meissen porcelains, Kaspar Utz found a refuge from the horrors of the twentieth century. Compared with the exquisite reality of his figurines, rescued and safe in the illusionist city of Prague, the Gestapo and the Secret Police were about to Utz as 'creatures of tinsel'. It was the colourful Harlequin, 'the Trickster', with whom nondescript Utz most identified. Utz too was adept at wriggling into positions of advantage, at outwitting authorities - and the love of his own Columbine was nearer at hand than he knew. Being one-quarter Jewish, he nursed a qualm that art-collecting was a kind of idolatry - a blasphemy - and that somehow this very danger was what made Jews so good at it. From his flat and sanctuary of old European images, Utz could see the tomb of Rabbi Loew, legendry creator of the Golem, standing as a mute warning to him. By modeling and remodeling the figure of Utz as each new detail about his life is unearthed, Bruce Chatwin offers a unique insight into the fictional process itself. The artistry, as always, is made to look simple, yet Chatwin's work stands out among contemporary writing as something valuable and rare. Hide synopsis

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