Not all treasures glow and shine, some bring back shadows and ghosts from the past. Magic Prague is like one of these dusty old books that curious kids find in movies and that open them doors to other worlds and other dimensions. Mistake not: this isn’t a guide book, this book captures the soul of the city of Prague.
It was the year 1946 when Angelo Maria Ripellino, a Sicilian, came to Prague for the first time. Before then he was a translator of Slavic and German authors. Since then he couldn’t help himself but to morph into an Italian-Bohemian and would be tied to this city for the rest of his life.
Love is the constant score of this book; the love for Prague, for the invisible Prague, for the Prague that was and still is when nobody’s watching. Some people can naturally tune in on Prague’s frequencies and find the key to its intimacy. Angelo Maria Ripellino is one of these people and he’s seduced by the bohemian mistress, the city that was the heart of 19th century culture, the Venice of the north where the foggy canals are replaced by narrow cobblestone alleys and where at night, if you pay attention, you can still feel the company of ghosts.
Prague opens up her chest to Ripellino and the pieces he draws out of it, notes, emotions, impressions are rendered in a sublime baroque style. The casual Prague visitor will be a little challenged if he choose to pick up this book but I believe that at least a few of the scenes that Ripellino draws will stick with him forever. The smelly pubs, Jaroslav Hasek (author of The Good Soldier Svejk) walking home drunk from Cafè Montmartre, creaking on the fresh snow, and then the alchemists and Rudolf II, the times of Arcimboldo.
This book is a love letter to Prague, written by someone who from Prague was loved back.