|Type of paper:||Book review|
|Categories:||English literature Historical literature|
The novel begins slowly as two Oxford students set out on a trip across Europe in what seems a story of a road trip troubled only by class differences and sexual uncertainties. But when the point of view shifts to a young British diplomat named Sam Wareham in Prague, we realize we are in a bigger story set against the turbulent landscape that was known as Alexander Dubcek's short-lived and failed policy of "socialism with a human face." Sam meets and falls in love with a Czech student named Lenka, who is as mysterious as she is seductive.
In his creation of Lenka and her mother, the man who became her mother's protector, Mawer plunges us into a world where nothing can be verified, where everyone is suspect. Here the most egregious events and relationships are simply accepted as "reality" because there is nothing that can be done to change them. The values of a young British like Sam are challenged beyond imagination in trying to unpack what is happening. The backstories about real people, like Masaryk and Milada Horakova, give even more resonance to Mawer's deftly blended narrative.
Slowly, inevitably, the border crossings become more desolate, more difficult, and creepy until Ellie and James land in Prague, and their story merges with that of Sam and Lenka. And that is when we begin to understand the relationship between a young British and a Czech student whose Jewish father was killed by the Communists. His Jewish grandparents being killed in one of the concentration camps is a narrative far more consequential than the adventures of this innocent English couple.
The violence that marks the end to the Prague Spring that took place in Wenceslas Square is horrific, chilling, and believable. Here is Lenka when she sees Ellie and James appear amid the chaos. Lenka saves them but does not escape herself (Radio Prague, 2019); it is as if her fate has been written long before the events of this book. It is evident as she lies "in the borderline of the living and the neither dead, neither one thing nor another, like the country itself, neither free nor captive." And Sam's anguish, yet also the resignation that will allow him to survive whatever the outcome.
Although Prague Spring ends on a lighter note - Ellie and James flipping another coin - I must confess that reading it once a few months ago and then re-reading it to write this review has given me pause. In that short time, our democracy seems to be becoming more frayed and thus more fragile, and for those who are so convinced that we are safe from the onslaughts that come with autocracy and Fascism, they would do well to read this book. Here is an unsettling reminder of how fast things can change, both for the better and the worse. And how, if we have ideals, we must act to preserve them.
Simon Mawer's Prague Spring: a complex love story amid the drama of 1968 | Radio Prague International. (2019). Radio Prague International. Retrieved 8 December 2019, from https://www.radio.cz/en/section/books/simon-mawers-prague-spring-a-complex-love-story-amid-the-drama-of-1968
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Literary Analysis Essay on Prague Spring by Simon Mawer. (2023, Mar 14). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/literary-analysis-essay-on-prague-spring-by-simon-mawer
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