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Something About Czech Literature
The first works of literature from the Czech Republic date to the 14th century. Since then, the country’s literature went through Classical, Reformation, Baroque and Enlightenment periods. After that, modern literature is mostly divided into the following epochs:
- The National awakening (19th century)
- The avant-garde of the interwar period (1918-39)
- Communism and the Prague Spring (1948-90)
- The Post-Communist Czech Republic (1992-present)
Before the 20th century, literature was mostly seen as a means to educate and serve the nation and spread Czech culture. After that, it became literature simply for the sake of art. The influence of French, German and Russian literature made the Czechs demanding of the cultural knowledge from their authors.
The Best Bookstores In Prague
Location: Václavské náměstí 34 | On the Wenceslas Square
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 20:00, Sat 09:30 – 19:00, Sun 09:30 – 18:00
Academia is a leading publishing company in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1953 originally as a publishing house of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and has been named Academia since 1966.
The main bookstore is located right on Wenceslas Square, so it will not be difficult to spot. Here you can buy yourself a book and enjoy the reading from the balcony with an iconic view to one of the most beautiful squares in Prague.
Here you will find original scientific monographs and works by Czech scientists, as well as foreign classics in academic science, popular science, non-fiction, encyclopaedias, as well as quality fiction in the original Czech and in translation.
Academia is definitely the place for those trying to expand their knowledge horizon, independent of the field.
One reason why I love this bookstore is the fact that they have important works of Czech literature, sciences and art translated to English, making it one of my favorite places to find English books in Prague. This makes Academia the ideal place for exploring the culture of the Czech Republic right at its heart.
On the image above you can see the first book that I bought here, written by none other than Václav Havel, who tells of his dissidence during the communist occupation. An essential pick for those trying to understand recent Czech history.
Location: Lazarská 1 | Near Franz Kafka’s Head Monument
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:00 – 19:00, Sat 09:00 – 18:00, Sun 11:00 – 18:00
For 20 years Budget Books have been supplying the Czech Republic with literary classics at an affordable price. This network of affordable bookstores started to operate on the Czech market in 1996.
There are many around Prague, but the easiest to find is definitely the one close to Franz Kafka’s Head. You will see their logo from far away, so you can just hop in and take your pick.
Here you will find classic books by none other than Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Victor Hugo, etc. Apart from the obvious classics, you will also find among the bookshelves, books specialized in scientific literature, history, and philosophy. All of this makes Budget Books a great place to find English books in Prague at a good price.
The first book I bought here was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, written by Oliver sacks, a renowned neurologist. Not much of a classic, it is still an essential read for those interested in the field of neurological disorders.
The book discusses not only deficits and excesses regarding brain function, but also phenomenological manifestations with reference to altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in people with intellectual disorders.
Location: Spálená 110/53 | Near Café Louvre
Opening: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 18:30, Sat-Sun 10:00 – 17:00
Spálená 53 is not only a bookstore but an antiquity store as a whole. Here you will find new and second-hand books, LPs and vinyl, maps, graphic posters, postcards, etc.
After gathering great experience in the field, the owner Eva Michalkova founded her own publishing house named Aurora and opened her first bookstore in Prague’s Zizkov. Later on, a second-hand bookshop was added to it and the whole was further allocated to Spálená Street No. 53.
Here is the place for you to get your hands on rare pieces, especially regarding literature, and advance your knowledge in Czech history while holding part of it in your own hands. Although unique pieces, the books here are not as expensive as you might think.
Czech Book Suggestions
If you are coming to Prague (or if you are already here), I have a couple of book recommendations, in case you wish to visit one of the bookstores I mentioned above and dive into Czech literature.
Frank Kafka – The Trial
Josef K. is a regular man who is suddenly accused of a crime he has no recollection of having committed. The book then follows him through the absurdities of bureaucracy and the judicial system, showing the hopelessness and nightmarish reality of an individual being crushed by the State.
Jan Neruda – Prague Tales
This is the book for those willing to understand Czech characters and motifs. It tells short stories describing the mundane lives of the inhabitants of Prague’s Mala Strana (Little Quarter), who are humbled by poverty, debauchery, and infighting, yet remain warm and well-humored, despite how unfortunate their lives might end up being.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being
This book tells the story of two women, two men, a dog, and their lives in the 1968’s Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. Challenging Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence (a mental exercise where you suppose your life repeats itself ad infinitum), The Unbearable Lightness of Being poses the paradoxical condition of life: lightness from the ease in which things happen, and heaviness for the consequences that decisions have.