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 ...
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.
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Publishers Weekly, 1988-10-21 Chatwin is a protean writer ( On the Black Hill , The Songlines ) always capable of surprising and entertaining his readers. In this slim volume, he draws a satirical portrait of life in a Socialist stateand concludes that human nature is the same no matter what political winds are blowing. The last descendent of an old Czech family, the eponymous art dealer Kaspar Utz lives in Prague, where the Russian occupiers allow him to keep his priceless Meissen porcelain collection on condition that he bequeath it to the national museum. To the narrator, Utz represents the quintessential adapter, able to tolerate a repressive government as long as his private life is undisturbed. Obsessed with a passion to preserve these remnants of the bygone days of imperial glory, Utz implies that the figurines are more real, enduring and invulnerable than the gray world of Eastern Europe existing behind the Iron Curtain. But on his death a droll mystery is revealed; the fate of the collection is as much a result of the belated awakening of Utz's romantic nature as it is a joke against the political regime he despised. Befitting his narrative, Chatwin's spare, precise prose takes on a surrealist quality appropriate to the theater of the absurd. 40,000 first printing; $35,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild alternate. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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