cover image The Other City

The Other City

Michal Ajvaz, , trans. from the Czech by Gerald Turner. . Dalkey Archive, $13.95 (168pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-491-9

In Ajvaz's first novel to be translated into English, a Borgesian cohort of freakish creatures, talking birds and eccentric city dwellers lurk on the margins of an alternative Prague. An unnamed protagonist learns that a book written in an unearthly language is an opening to a dangerous world that is just around the corner from normal life. More and more frequently, the protagonist stumbles across scenes from the other city—he spies on an inscrutable religious service, is treated to “a lecture on the subject of Latest Discoveries about the Great Battle in the Bedrooms.” The city's inhabitants do not take kindly to his intrusions; he is pursued by weasels, shot at by a helicopter and nearly eaten by a half-man, half-shark. Meanwhile, overheard conversations dissolve into nonsense, elk are stabled inside statues and birds recite passages from an epic poem. Ajvaz's novel is a gorgeous matryoshka doll of unreason, enigma and nonsense—truly weird and compelling. (June)