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The Last Bell Extract

Posted 5th Apr 2017

Discover ‘the great troubadour of a Prague forever lost’ – Max Brod

Johannes Urzidil, one of the great writers of the Prague circle, has been woefully overlooked, unlike his friends Franz Kafka and Max Brod. Pushkin Press is delighted to bring you The Last Bell: the first collection of stories in English by Urzidil.

These tales, set against the backdrop of twentieth century life in Bohemia, handle humanity with a wit and originality that demonstrates the author’s ability to understand and celebrate all people.

Urzidil deserves to take his place amongst his friends and fellows in the literary cannon.

In the title story, a miserly maid is suddenly given her employers’ riches while they flee from Nazi persecution. A curmudgeonly clerk becomes enthralled by a Spanish noblewoman’s portrait in The Duchess of Albanera. A widowed villager’s ‘magnetic’ twelve-year-old daughter witnesses a disturbing event in Borderland, and in Where the Valley Ends, an entire village is thrown into civil war over the disappearance of a freshly baked cheesecake.

Playful, often philosophical, always emotionally perceptive, these tales of the ordinary and the extraordinary are vividly told. Now that they are available in English for the first time to not read them is akin to pretending Kafka didn’t exist. Such subtle, intriguing stories are perfect to read at in between times and to reflect on much later.

Click to read a selected extract