Michal Ajvaz‘s fantastic novel The Other City is a surrealistic guidebook to the hidden spaces and invisible ‘other’ Prague. Writing in a dreamlike prose reminiscent of Borges, Ajvaz describes and explores the invisible city of the imagination that, he says, is enmeshed in the unoccupied spaces of the known world. It’s a brilliant book that brings to mind not only Borges and Kafka but Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities and John Stilgoe’s Outside Lies Magic as well as Rebecca Solnit‘s Wanderlust, which I recently wrote about on my books and culture blog, The Bronsk Commons. The passage below also reminded me of my Codes photo series, prompting me to post the second part.
“Like everyone, I had on many previous occasions, ignored a half-open door leading elsewhere—in the chilly passages of strange houses, in backyards, on the outskirts of towns. The frontier of our world is not far away; it doesn’t run along the horizon or in the depths. It glimmers faintly close by, in the twilight of our nearest surroundings; out of the corner of our eye we can always glimpse another world, without realizing it. We are walking all the time along a shore and along the edges of a virgin forest. Our gestures would seem to rise out of an entity that also encompasses these concealed spaces, and in an odd way they reveal their shadowy existence, although we are unaware of the roar of waves and shrieks of animals—the disquieting accomplishment to our words (and possibly their secret birthplace); we are unaware of the glitter of jewels in the unknown world of nooks and crannies; usually we don’t stray off the path even once in the course of our lives. What golden temples in the jungles might we find our way to? With what beasts and monsters might we content and on what islands might we forget our plans and ambitions?”
—Michal Ajvaz, The Other City
(You may click on the images for a larger view.)