Letter to the Editor

 

I'm writing in annoyed response to Vincent Farnsworth's article on 'Paris/Prague'.

 

I lived in Prague between 1990 and 1993. Whilst there, I was writing all the time – although there wasn't as yet much of an expat writing 'scene'. I collaborated on translations of Czech poetry by Ivan Wernisch, Jiri Orten, Zuzana Trojanova, Bohuslav Reynek and Jaroslav Pizl. Some of these were published in the short-lived, massive-format magazine Raut. If you're interested, they're on my website: www.tobylitt.com/translations.html.

 

I also wrote two novels, The Prague Metro and The Good Party Man. On coming back to England, I completed another, dissidents. None of these have yet been published, but they are about the city, they were written in the 1990s and they do exist.

 

Since then, though, I have published two books of stories and five novels. These have been translated into around fifteen languages.

 

Prague wasn't where I started as a writer, but it was a place where I was able to spend two and a half beautiful years with enough free hours in the week to learn some craft.

 

My point is, you don't necessarily have to look in Prague now for the works to justify Alan Levy's claims. Maybe, as he said, 'the art might not be recognised for years'. Maybe it's not the art but the artists who are important. And maybe, as artists tend to do, they moved on pretty quickly. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

 

When I arrived, around Easter 1990, there were very few Americans in Prague; by the summer of 1991, there were lots. In the meantime, life in the city had become a lot easier and much less uniquely Czech. Foreign-owned shops had replaced many of those run by the state. The creation of an ex-pat community meant that those arriving didn't have so much to do with the Praguers themselves.

 

In other words, there was a moment. It was great. I was lucky enough to be there for it. If you're arriving in Prague now, you missed it. Sorry, but you did. I hope you have your own moment but, to be honest, I think you're in the wrong place. If it's the new Paris you're after, you'd be better off heading for Shanghai.

 

Toby Litt