October 20, 2014 8:35 PM   Subscribe

On Gottland
Gottland is not a novel, but that proves difficult to remember. The book, playfully subtitled Mostly True Stories from Half of Czechoslovakia, is technically a work of reportage, and its author, Mariusz Szczygieł, one of Poland’s best-known journalists. Most of Gottland’s tales, however, seem better suited to Soviet science fiction—or even Russian absurdism—than to actual European history. Szczygieł, aware of his essays’ incredibility, alludes to it not only in Gottland’s subtitle but also in a more blatant disclaimer to his readers: “From here on, most of what we know . . . should be labeled with the first sentence from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which goes: ‘All this happened, more or less.’”
posted by the man of twists and turns (8 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I actually saw this in a bookstore this weekend, and waffled between getting it and not. The linked articles have nudged me back toward getting it next I'm in the shop, so thanks.
posted by frimble at 5:31 AM on October 21, 2014

Sounds fascinating. Just put it on my wish list, and emailed a friend in Prague to see if she's read it.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:23 AM on October 21, 2014

Thanks - this goes on the book club suggestion list as it sounds like it would reward discussion.
posted by bq at 7:56 AM on October 21, 2014

Sounds like an excellent book; thanks for the post.

One of the funniest and most bizarre stories is contained in the chapter “Proof of Love,” which deals with the disastrous plan to erect “the world’s largest statue of Stalin on a hill above the Vltava River in Prague.”

Anyone intrigued by this should check out the excellent (as usual) post at Poemas del río Wang.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cool post. I saw this online the other day and is now on my reading list.
posted by Nevin at 10:05 AM on October 21, 2014

. . . in a situation where someone ought to say: “I was afraid to talk about it,” “I hadn’t the courage to ask about it,” “or “I had no idea about it,” they say:

“THERE WAS NO TALK about it.”
“That WASN’T ASKED about.”

Okay I know I've become sort of a one-trick pony at this point, but I find myself struck by the realization that this grammatical formation was common at most of the places I've ever had the misfortune to work, most especially the "that's not asked about" one.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2014

I was traveling in Prague when I saw this post and ended up buying it right away. And it's amazing! One of the funniest and most engrossing non-fiction books I've read.
posted by pugg at 12:25 PM on October 22, 2014

Eek! I proofread this. Definitely one of my more enjoyable assignments. Hope y'all who decide to buy it don't find any typos.
posted by ferret branca at 1:04 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

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