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Sestra Man was I glad to put this book down This was too clever for me City Sister Silver is the Czech euivalent of Trainspotting only the historical setting is a little serious Set in the Czech Republic just after the Germans have left it's about Potok and his search for meaning to his life in this new style of country Except he searches for meaning by running dodgy trades with the Far East drinking too much taking a truck load of hallucinogens and then talking to his friends about the ridiculous dreams he has After the first few pages of the novel when he's aware of the Germans being shipped off the dreams are really the only hint that any of the characters have any kind of social conscience but the trip they take to Auschwitz in one of these dreams is painfully done and heavy handed It also lasts for everIn the second part of the book the business is destroyed and Potok finds his Sistersoulmate an ex club singerhooker and they escape to the country only to be followed by shadowy forces They may or may not have murdered someone by then the narrative is so continuous between Potok's paranoia and an actual story that I found it impossible to tell what was actually happening and what was only occurring in his cloudy brain Eventually though his drinking leads to his loss of Sister and he runs away and spends time on a farm on a dump and eventually back in the City where he meets up with some of his old friends and finds they're just as messed up as he isThere's some social commentary the most interesting being the various attempts at Capitalism and Westernisation that both Potok and his friends and others attempt throughout the book The use of culture as a driving force for change is also in thereBut really I was baffled by this book Maybe the translation is clunky I can't imagine reading Trainspotting in French for example The use of English was bizarre and occasionally inpenetrable and a lot of the action left me confused and cold I'm not a fan of stream of consciousness style writing and found myself drifting away from the text freuently It's interesting that another reviewer way versed in literature than I am says that the final 200 pages of the 500 page tome are an endurance test yet still gives it 5 stars He also recommends dipping in and out of this book at random but my 1001 book list Aspergers won't let me do thatIn the end I was very glad to put this one down I am not good at doing reviews Either I like a book or I don't but usually I can't really say why Sometimes when I hate a book enough I do have something to say about it though This is one of those booksSeriously wtf I have no idea what I just read and I absolutely do not understand how this ended up on Boxall's 1001 list Most of the book seemed like a messy dream seuence or bad trip and the parts that did make sense were just disturbing Normal punctuation would have been nice too The amount of in this book made my eyes hurtJust urgh Set around the time that the wall came down some parts of the book are really good things that I wasn't aware of The number of people who travelled into the west as soon as they could and Topol's description of the chaos There are sections that seem like dream seuences the Laotians living in the apartment block the dissappearances and the sections dealing with Cerna in particular Had to concentrate to make sense of thisWould like to have given it stars but for the confusing jumble of thoughts and descriptions It's possible it's a book you need to read twice to understand In reading the translator's Alex Zucker notes and Ali's review I can see why this would be considered difficult Like a literary jig saw puzzle seemingly random scenes flit across the pages From World Literature Today The action of the novel begins before the Velvet Revolution in November 1989 and ends probably in 1993 The narrator of the bizarre story is Potok a former actor in an underground theaterFinished after forcing myself through the middle section hate to give up and it is worth the read just for the feel of Prague during that time period Prvotina Jáchyma Topola patří k nejpřekládanějším polistopadovým českým románům Jde o osobitou výpověď o životě v bývalém Československu na konci 80 a počátku 90 let 20 století Mnohovrstevné vyprávění začíná útěky Němců přes Československo na západ pokračuje listopadovou revolucí dotýká se rasismu kriminality narkomanie a dalších společenských jevů které přinesla překotná doba a které zasáhly především mládež Vyprávění nemá souvislou linii často jde o kupení dojmů a působivých obrazů se spoustu literárních citací Difficult very difficult to read But worth it in the end It may take you two years to get through like it did me but I think I got something from it Some books are difficult to read A very select few are like City Sister Silver which are so challenging that you almost give up trying to decipher it from the get go and attempt to simply go with the flow I don't believe you would make it through City Sister Silver if you need to understand everything Apart from the obvious difficulties like obtuse use of punctuation endless sentences lack of paragraphs and switches in perspectives Topol's epic rambling dark novel also refuses to make sense and whenever it pretends to shakes off that sense and smothers it in dreamscapes confusion despair and sometimes just utter nonsense Alone the irritating pauses are enough to drive you mad And on top of that Topol's English translator has tried his hardest to transcribe deep Czech dialects especially Prague dialects into English by copying some of their phonic similarities The result is a broken English not at all resembling a real dialect that is full of intentional inconsistenciesIf all that appeals then City Sister Silver is the challenge for you It is the fragmented account of a Prague gang member and his life of misery revelation dislocation and doomed romance in Soviet Czech Republic and in the years following independence The first part City loosely depicts their urban lives the wheeling and dealing the violence and city's underground the drugs and alcohol their attempts to survive and find autonomy in a confused and broken city The first third ends with a horrific and protracted dream description involving concentration camps figure of death and obscure meaning In the second part Sister concentrates on Potok's the narrator's love affair with a woman who may or may not be his sister It is deliberately vague and one the truly irritating things about the book is that it sometimes seems impossible to delve out any meaning from the choices Topol makes As change sweeps the city and its power centres as young men like Potok are forced to switch allegiances to live innovatively and spontaneously Potok and his lover live a life in hiding trapped in their circumstances in cycles of violenceThe final part deals with Potok's personal disintegration It deals with alchohol abuse and poverty with unemployment with inactivity with depression Sometimes there are scenes of astonishing clarity that portray an experience the harrowing scene when Potok gets a job as a movie extra for example but basically not much sticks It is a book constantly in flux linguistically as well and it is a struggle to find meaning anywhere Perhaps with a greater knowledge of Czech culture and history it has impact and I have no doubt that the language in the Czech original is characterful and authentic The translator's attempt is admirable but I couldn't help but find some decisions constantly annoying often spelling and an was the worst I was very proud of myself for finishing City Sister Silver and in flashes I enjoyed it I was also very glad it was over 4 I can see this is an amazing book but I didn't have a clue what was going on most of the time The rise and fall of a young man in Czechoslovakia in the years following the fall of communism with a lot of confusing language and some magical realism I think The first part was the hardest to follow I think you'd have to have been there at the time to understand that part It got easier later slightly and some parts were uite charming But then others were horrible Sometimes the whole 1001 books thing leads somewhere I'd rather not be I know that low lifes are sometimes fascinating in a vicarious or a can't look away fashion And sometimes as here they're just loathsome and basically deserve what they get There's no attempt at getting any empathy going and I think that's a decision by the author to go that way so what is the point Really tried with this book but couldn't cope with all the constant switches story doesn't seem to be linear and instead turns into sub mythical stories within the story I hate giving up on books but just lost patience


About the Author: Jáchym Topol

Jáchym Topol was born in Prague Czechoslovakia to Josef Topol Czech playwright poet and translator of Shakespeare and Jiřina Topolová daughter of the famous Czech Catholic writer Karel SchulzTopol's writing began with lyrics for the rock band Psí vojáci led by his younger brother Filip in the late '70s and early '80s In 1982 he cofounded the samizdat magazine Violit and in 1985 Revol


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