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Novel set in the Czech Republic (the concept of space and “Raum”)

17th July 2014

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer – a novel set in the Czech Republic.

IMG_1484This is the novel I chose to take with me to Prague and environs so that I could get another dimension of what life in this central European state might have been like. It was the perfect choice and it is a joy of a book to read!

There is a brief introduction on how to pronounce some of the Czech letters and of course, being in the country, it was a unique experience to see the odd Czech word in the text and look up and be surrounded by more of the same language. It felt like a real immersion in country and culture.

Liesel and Viktor Landauer commission the building of a family house in the fictional town of Mēsto. They engage Rainer von Abt to build it and it is to be a unique construction, a homage to Modernist architecture. He is a poet ‘of light, space and form’, inspired by Mondrian, the antithesis of the Wiener Secession and Klimt, all swags and gold and tinsel.

IMG_1477And he is a disciple of Adolf Loos (I will come back to the relevance of this in a moment). This building, all hard lines, IMG_1480and unforgiving facades nevertheless embraces light and form on the inside and is a true testimony to the architect’s vision of space, room to live, the German “Raum”.

The house, together with its glass room almost come to represent the changes the country has had to endure, it is like a mirror on the world of central Europe leading up to WW2. First Haus Landauer is inhabited by the family, and friends, and life is to a certain extent good, but as the clouds of war begin to gather, the family moves to Switzerland, and finally to the States. The Nazis invade and the house becomes a research centre to catalogue and understand what it means to be Aryan – Aryan, as opposed to Slav as opposed to Jew. The war rages on around Europe, and this is the story of one house and how it withstands the onslaught of regimes that come and go. It is like a stage where the players (the people) try to lead their lives, given the political and social constraints beyond its walls, when all around the tumult of history is being played out. Characters come and go, and reappear to bring the whole story of the Glass Room full circle. It is wonderfully written and a captivating story. And it certainly filled in a few gaps in my knowledge of history in the making in this part of the world.

The actual villa in the book is likely to be based on the Villa Tugendhat. But just outside Prague there is the Villa Müller with many of the modernist features described in the novel, with a terrace IMG_1483from which one has a framed view of Prague – and it was designed and built in the late 1920s by Adolf Loos. The glass form is not replicated but the feel of interconnecting space and linear design really captures a 3 dimensional feel – the tenets of the house in the book are suddenly manifest in real life. And that is a wonderful experience! Don’t forget to visit!

We had such fun taking the book and capturing it ‘on location’. But others around us certainly struggled to make sense of it. So if you see folks setting books in location, give them a thumbs up, it might just be member of the TF team!

Click on any of the photos, the title link or here to buy the novel. Both The Glass Room and the DK Prague Guide are available from your local bookshop.

Do come and join TripFiction on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too.

Tina for the TripFiction Team.

Off for a Pilsener Urquell, cheers!

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