Prague Noir, By Sylvie Germain, trs Judith Landrye

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The Independent Culture

A slim volume of only 111 pages (and the ones between chapters are blank), this extended prose poem is nevertheless long enough for its length.

A woman is glimpsed walking the streets of Prague: a strange, gigantic woman, who walks with a limp, who fades in and out of visibility, who "sails through walls as easily as through tree trunks or through the piers of bridges". She's made not of flesh and blood, but of tears – a condensation of all the grief of humanity, a walking memorial to the victims of war and their families. There is no story, as such; just a succession of sightings in different parts of the city at different times and seasons; and each sighting awakens more painful memories.

The style is lyrical, intense, passionate, compassionate; mourning death, celebrating life. The atmosphere may be gauged by the nouns and adjectives taken from a paragraph at random: "flowers... downcast... snowdrops... cellar-roses... history... war... hatred... bloom... deeds... men... cold, sweat, blood and tears.... secret... memories".