(Above: Yr Correspondent in Prague, July 2010)

I’m reading Laurent Binet’s HHhH, a novel about Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich and his assassination in 1942 in Prague. I’m still a bit undecided on the book itself—its postmodern ticcing falls just on the wrong side of the line between “fun” and “annoying”—but it unarguably successful when it starts talking about Prague, a city that the author clearly loves.

Though to be fair, who can go to Prague and not love it? That’s not hyberbole: even Hitler, a man well known for his hate, loved it. Binet has a good description of Hitler’s first and only visit to Prague:

There is a famous photo of him, hands leaning on the sill of an open window, contemplating the city below. He looks pleased with himself. Afterward he goes back downstairs and enjoys a candlelit dinner in one of the dining rooms. Heydrich can’t help noticing that the Führer eats a slice of ham and drinks a Pilsner Urquell, the most famous Czech beer—Hitler who is a teetotaler and vegetarian.

 

"The good thing about writing a true story is that you don’t have to worry about giving an impression of realism."

— Laurent Binet, HHhH

"…a great many things which were old stories to a great many people had the charm of novelty to him…"

— Henry James, The American

"I shouldn’t like to resemble anyone. It is hard enough work resembling one’s self."

— Henry James, The American

"You look like all happy men, very ridiculous."

— Henry James, The American

"…that soft hardness of good society which puts out its hand but keeps its fingers closed over the coin."

— Henry James, The American

"He never lost a sense of its being pitiable that Valentin should think it a large life to revolve in varnished boots between the Rue d’Anjou and the Rue de l’Universite, taking the Boulevard des Italiens on the way, when over there in America one’s promenade was a continent, and one’s Boulevard stretched from New York to San Francisco."

— Henry James, The American

"Master of nuance and scruple,
Pray for me and for all writers living or dead;
Because there are many whose works
Are in better taste than their lives, because there is no end
To the vanity of our calling: make intercession
For the treason of all clerks."

— W.H. Auden, “At the Grave of Henry James”

"She has taken the measure of life, and she has determined to be something—to succeed at any cost… She has not as much heart as will go on the point of a needle. That is an immense virtue. Yes, she is one of the celebrities of the future."

— Henry James, The American