Noilly Prattle: The Prague Cemetery Connection

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Prague Cemetery Connection

Been reading Umberto Eco's new book The Prague Cemetery. It's a rambling tour through the various revolutions in 19th Century Europe complete with Machiavellian plotting, backstabbing and murder, Jewish conspiracy theories, racism and ethnocentricity, occultist societies and just Eco's inimitable breath of trivia cum learned intellectual mumbo jumbo and grandstanding in general. Not as tight and well developed as my favorites: The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, it tends to meander and be difficult to follow the anti-hero from one nefarious assignment to the next, let alone the confusion of his apparent “split personality”. Perhaps all will become clear by the end of the novel. Eco can be demanding.

My aim isn't to review this book, however, it is about Prague cemeteries and their possible connection to Eco's title. I have “discovered”, so far, two cemeteries in Prague: one Christian at Vyšehrad Castle (no charge to enter), which is where composers Dvorak and Smetana are buried; and the other the Jewish Cemetery in the Josefov (old Jewish quarter) section of Prague (sadly, not free). There are guided tours through the sites of the Josefov which includes some synagogues and the old cemetery, but for now at least we chose to just walk around and look from the outside.

Eco's Prague Cemetery is the old Jewish cemetery. I'm only about halfway through the novel and have so far seen only one reference to the cemetery of the title. I might consider springing a few kronas for the tour if more details about the cemetery emerge in the novel. I did take a few photos of some of the synagogues in the quarter—one of them the oldest synagogue in Europe.

Jewish Cemetery is on the left,
but you can't see it

the oldest synagogue in Europe

unobtrusive entrance to oldest synagogue

Spanish Synagogue (Franz Kafka statue)

private Maisel Synagogue

golem restaurant - nest to Maisel Synagogue

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