I, City


Product Details

$14.50  $13.49
Twisted Spoon Press
Publish Date
5.8 X 8.06 X 0.45 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. He is the author of several books, including A Heaven of Others and Witz. His nonfiction has appeared in Bookforum, The Forward, Harper's and other publications. He lives in New York City.
Pavel Brycz was born in 1968 in the Czech town of Roudnice nad Labem. A graduate of Prague's Drama Academy, he worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency where he produced the Czech slogan for KFC (roughly translated as "damn good chicken"). He is the author of six books. For I, City he was awarded the Orten Prize, and in 2004 he received the State Prize for Literature, its youngest recipient ever. In English his work has appeared in the anthology Daylight in Nightclub Inferno (Catbird Press, 1997). Currently he teaches Czech language and literature at a Gymnasium in Liberec, hosts a weekly children's program on Czech radio that narrates legends from around the world, and writes lyrics for the Balkan-chanson-folk band Zdarr.


Brycz pays tribute to his native Bohemian city of Most in this dreamy, disjointed series of vignettes, first published in 1998. The narrator is actually the city itself (located in the northwestern Czech Republic) and documents the follies of its youth, the vagaries of government and church, and the ravages of Soviet occupation. "I am not a hero," the city declares. "But when people on my streets and in my houses are truly human, I feel heroic." Most is portrayed here as a working-class city made up of migratory Germans, Czechs, Gypsies, Jews and poets speaking an "industrial conglomerate." Sometimes the city narrator waxes nostalgic, as when remembering lost sons of the city such as the Moravian singer and violinist Hanicka Hana, who settled in Most after World War II. Variously, the city marvels at the visiting Berolina Circus's polar bear act, witnesses sad partings between lovers and records good deeds (a taxi driver returns a teenage runaway to her parents' home). The voice of Brycz's battered city rings epic and authentic, while the translators' note offers an extensive history of Most.

-- Publishers Weekly
I, City is an unconventional novel in that the only constant, and the only thing that might be called a character, is the setting -- the Czech city of Most. ... Though Brycz has dispensed with character and plot, here, he nevertheless avoids sliding into a detached-sounding narrative. I, City is warm and engaging throughout. Brycz's writing could be described as poetic and, in fact, he often breaks out of prose altogether. There are frequent line breaks, and he keeps his line starts fully left-justified (no paragraphs). He thus leans heavily towards the medium of poetry for a significant portion of the book. As a result, I, City feels like a fusion between a novel and a collection of poems, which suits the arrangement of short pieces very well.

-- Alasdair Gillon, The Edinburgh Review
The city's voice is dreamy, even slight, in what amounts to a clever and calculated critique of the city's depressed socioeconomic condition (the photos included in the book depict a seeming ghost town of crumbling buildings, Soviet-era apartment blocks, and strip mines). The whimsical tone is weighed down nicely here and there by more substantial chapters within which resonates a theme of confused identity ...

-- A.D. Jameson, The Review of Contemporary Fiction
[T]he loose episodic structure of I, City and its democratic inclusion of diverse voice and perspectives owes a great deal to Bohumil Hrabal's collage technique of incorporating low-life characters into his stories and novels. In this way the otherwise irrelevant lives of small-town individuals are invested with a dignity denied to them by the grand narratives of twentieth-century history and ideology ... The central metaphor of the book--the anthropomorphic conceit of the city as a living person--is very much in the spirit of magical realism.

-- Alfred Thomas, The Sarmatian Review