The Golden Maze by Richard Fidler

‘I see a great city.  Its glory will touch the stars.’

Richard Fidler’s first experience of Prague was in 1989, during the Velvet Revolution.  Thirty years later, he returned to uncover and write the history of this fascinating city.

I have never visited Prague, and while I know aspects of its history, there were gaping holes in my knowledge.  I read about Libussa, who prophesied a great city.  I read about kings and emperors, triumphs, and tragedies.  I explored gothic towers and baroque palaces, remembered the history of the Winter King and Winter Queen of Bohemia.  I learned that Prague gave the world both the golem and the robot, as well as the world’s biggest statue of Stalin (now destroyed).

The first half (roughly) of the book takes us from pre-history, through medieval times, to 1935.  A mixed and rich history, with highlights of culture and science.  There were also two denefestrations (in 1419 and 1618), plague as well as periods of both religious tolerance and unrest.  I was interested in the history of the Jewish Renaissance in Prague during the sixteenth century.

The second half of the book focusses on the turmoil of the twentieth century, from when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, to the present.  From the terror of the Nazis, the control by the Soviet, the Velvet Revolution and an uncertain future.

There are almost forty pages of bibliography and endnotes for those readers who, having read this book, want more information.

A fascinating biography of a city.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith