A Farewell to Prague (Irish Literature Series)
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Following a crippling depression and institutionalization, the writer Desmond wanders from his native Dublin around an increasingly unrecognizable Europe, and as far as the southern United States, assembling a patchwork of small stories, conversations, love affairs, memories, regrets, and confrontations: “the labyrinth of stories of people whose lives you touch . . . so that your mind becomes like a polychromatic Irish pub.” Whether a series of tragic postcards, a cubist novel, or a memoir shorn of its connective tissue, A Farewell to Prague stands as Desmond Hogan’s greatest achievement: a catalog of the moments that justify a life—or shine a light on its emptiness.
people rode through on buggies, the women in poke bonnets. One morning, after having made love to him in the bath the previous night, you walked past a Catholic church with him in which a wedding was taking place. It was just about the third anniversary of Eleanor’s wedding. Although it was only November, an imbecilic Santa was swinging himself on a swing in a shop window and a Virgin Mary with outspread auburn hair, who looked like an Italian starlet of the fifties, looked aghast at the Christ
arrested by a young, virginal guard, and brought to court where I stood with the town’s criminals, young men with holes in the backsides of their trousers. Whereas they were sent to prison, I got a fine. But in my dreams I was circumscribed by the town and the country from that day on. In my dreams, back in London, I am walking across a flat landscape. At first the houses I go into have cuckoo clocks, one or two pictures on the walls – a grandfather, a grandmother – altars with Mary and Jesus on
singing ‘Shenandoah’. O Shenandoah I long to see you O away you rolling river O Shenandoah I long to see you Away I’m bound to go across the wide Missouri. In the upstairs bar, against the midsummer light, was not a sailor, but Andrei Tarkovsky, dark hair on his forehead like a wing, Mongolian eyes, Tartar moustache, mod shirt, and another Russian who lived in a high-rise, Nadia Mandelstam, her large gipsy’s mouth, her gipsy’s eyes, and I thanked them and the medieval ikon-makers, the men
of Ireland. 4 October, Feast of St Francis, he started. In the West of Ireland school, in a composition book, he wrote an essay about a Christmas fair in Bavaria, a carousel of real ponies with faux-ermine-looking fur, a roundabout of ladybirds, Bavarian men in romper suits and fedora hats dancing in a tent robbed by the Nazis from a Dutch seaside resort – a pink baldaquin, Jugendstil mirrors at the side – and a flamethrower throwing up a torch which was reflected in all the mirrors. Mimi e
mud on the inscription. A woman in a jaundiced coat looked on. ‘But I tell you my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.’ On trips to Dublin with my mother in the sixties we’d always stop at Westland Row Church before getting the train back West from the nearby station, and once for some reason, on the church steps, she looked down the street, in the opposite direction to the station, to 21 Westland Row, the birthplace of Oscar Wilde. She may have been in a