Gottland: Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia

This captivating essay collection (288 pages) was published in May of 2014 by Melville House. The book takes you to the Czech Republic. David read Gottland and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.



Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia

Mariusz Szczygieł, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (translator)

Polish investigative journalist Mariusz Szczygieł wanted to explore everything that the Czech Republic is and has been. This compelling collection of essays about fascinating Czechs is the un-put-downable result.

The first essay is about the Bata family, and it sets the tone for the entire book. Written in short one- to four-paragraph segments, it tells the made-for-a-movie story of a legendary Czech shoe-making family.

They started out in abject poverty, revolutionized the industry by studying Henry Ford’s assembly line, survived the Nazis (while being accused of being collaborators), lost their factories to the Communists, and finally, returned in triumph in 1989 — at the request of President Vaclav Havel, no less.

You’ll also meet other remarkable Czech citizens: Lida Baarova who was the mistress of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Gobbels. Jaroslava Moserova, an expert in skin grafting and a translator who adapted 44 Dick Francis mystery novels from English to Czech.

And also Karel Gott, the Slavic answer to Elvis. In 2006, he opened the museum known as Gottland, just outside Prague. Modeled after Presley’s Graceland, this homage to Gott’s career and life is now, sadly, closed.

Engaging, humorous, and surprisingly moving, this is one of those ‘Can I read this to you?’ books in which you discover bits so shocking or well-written, you need to read them aloud to someone else.

This we know: in order to survive in unfavorable circumstances, a small nation has to adapt. — Mariusz Szczygieł

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