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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk


Gottland - Mariusz Szczygieł I read this book in Italian. I was forced to.
Despite of my moderate efforts, my current Polish doesn't go very far. And no one thought to give this book a chance on the English speaking market.
Which is a shame.

Perhaps it's just the name of its author, Szczygiel (roughly pronounced Shigyaooh).
Perhaps it's the title of the book, Gottland (no, it's not German).
On the whole, for an average British or American reader, I assume there seems to be very little to get from such obscure and tongue-twisting coordinates.
Which, once again, is a shame.

And if some brave English or American publisher will some day consider the possibility of translating this book, then comes the main topic of it: Czechoslovakia now split into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Which sounds like a further problem. At least for the likes of George W Bush who himself took Slovakia for Slovenia and viceversa.
I mean, apparently there is not that much to say about it, isn't it? Apart from explaining to the Bush family where this little forgotten country can be found on a map.
And unfortunately there are very little if no chances at all that Gottland will become a movie one day with, say, Leonardo Di Caprio performing Tomasz Bata, Natalie Portman putting herself in the shoes of Lida Baarova and Vaclav Havel starring as himself.

That's why I read the Italian translation of Gottland. Because I couldn't wait.
For "Gottland" is what I don't hesitate to call a masterpiece.
And a little publisher named "Nottetempo" had a moment of commercial folly or misunderstood geniality a few years ago.

My girlfriend told me that Marius S. (I will call him like that) was the host of the Polish version of something similar to the David Letterman Show which doesn't explain why he got so much into Czech Republic, but it's nice to report here.
What Marius S. did with Gottland is amazing. This book is gem of real stories coming from the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia covering the twentieth century with the interlude of two world wards, a nazi occupation and a communist dictatorship. The last one being the worst break on many accounts.
Reading Gottland one becomes eager to meet an actual, authentic Czech or Slovak person to check whether Marius S. got these people right. I suppose he did.

What I personally suggest is to either learn Polish or Italian, get this book and read it. I'm sure you will be surprised on how quick will be this process (once you learned one of the two above mentioned languages). And then I suggest you to start mentioning the term "Gottland" in your conversations.
You can refer to this book while talking about a wide range of subjects including cinema, monuments, architecture, taxi rides, literature, Prague, music, trials, Kafka, theater and... shoes.

Perhaps, little by little, someone who counts in the literary business of your country will hear the word "Gottland" being pronounced giving way to a further translation of this book. But I suppose that learning Polish may be easier.