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A debut collection of ten lucid, haunting, and darkly comic stories about Americans and Europeans in post-Cold War Prague.
The ten stories in The View from Stalin's Head unfold in the post-Cold War Prague of the 1990s, a magnet not only for artists and writers but also for tourists and drifters, a city with a glorious yet sometimes shameful history, its citizens both resentful of and nostalgic for their Communist past. Against this backdrop, Aaron Hamburger conjures an interesting array of characters: a self-appointed rabbi who runs a synagogue for non-Jews, an artist once branded as a criminal by the Communist regime who hires a teenage boy to boss him around, a fiery would-be socialist trying to rouse the oppressed masses while feeling the tug of her comfortable stateside upbringing. European and American, Jewish and gentile, straight and gay, the people in these stories are forced to confront themselves when the ethnic, religious, political, and sexual labels they rely on prove less stable than they'd imagined.
As Christopher Isherwood did in his Berlin Stories, Aaron Hamburger offers a humane and subtly etched portrait of a time and place, of people wrestling with questions of love, faith, and identity. The View from Stalin's Head is a remarkable debut, and the beginning of a remarkable career.
Praise for The View from Stalin's Head...
"A provocative and often striking first collection, this is recommended...." —Library Journal
"With a sharp eye for outlandish details, absurd turns of phrase, and quiet but monumental moments of realization, Aaron Hamburger lures you into the most intimate worlds of young Czech schoolboys and jaded ex-pats alike. This is a marvelous and honest collection of stories about people searching for identity in a country searching for the same."
-Jessica Shattuck, author of The Hazards of Good Breeding
"To be American, Jewish, Gay, teaching English in Prague: this is the situation limned by Aaron Hamburger in his marvellous collection The View from Stalin's Head. Artfully crafted, funny, poignant, sharply observant of realities and anguishes, these stories introduce a voice as original and engaging as his subject matter. This is a succulent meal indeed!"
"We're definitely not in Paris anymore. The View from Stalin's Head is a triumphant collection of storing chronicling the loves, the losses, and the dreams of denizens of Prague. With charm and wit and force of life, Aaron Hamburger takes us deep inside the city walls. Poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, these stories are as good as they come."
-Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of Hester Among the Ruins