Sunday, July 29, 2007


In Edmonton we saw a lot of central-European soccer during the FIFA U20 World Cup, including a quarter-final between Austria and the Czech Republic. I cheered for the Czechs, based on a long-held fondness for Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic. I studied East European history at university and rejoiced when the Velvet Revolution and Vaclav Havel tossed aside Soviet oppression in 1989. But I've never been there - no Prague, no coasts of Bohemia. So cheering on the Czechs feels a bit false, a bit forced.

This false feeling reminded me of a novel that captures the feeling of not belonging - of wanting to be somewhere else. Arthur Phillips' 2003 novel, Prague, is about a group of young American and Canadian expatriates who go to Eastern Europe in the 1990s in hopes of finding themselves. All the action is in Prague, but this group ends up in Budapest, Hungary, and the feeling of displacement - that they are missing out on something - is palpable. An inciteful and quite readable book.


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