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Book details:
Others' Paradise

[ excerpt ]

German writing

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also by the author:
Severin's Journey into
the Dark

Illustrated hardcover edition

"The Ghost of the Jewish Quarter" in Spanish

  others' paradise

by Paul Leppin

translated from the German by
Stephanie Howard and Amy R. Nestor

Toward the end of his life Leppin wrote: "Prague remains my deepest experience. Its conflict, its mystery, its rat-catcher's beauty have ever provided my poetic efforts with new inspiration and meaning." Others' Paradise represents one of the most intense expressions of this experience. Beginning with the highly imagistic "The Doors of Life," the eight stories contained in this volume detail the contours of the lives and visions of a collection of Prague inhabitants, from a prostitute bound to the decay of the old Jewish quarter, to a man caught in the memory of a lost love, and a shoemaker whose knowledge of the world has been constricted to the view from the window of his cellar workroom. Amidst their differing circumstances what these characters share is an intense desire for lasting human contact and the fated disappointment of all such aspirations. Binding their personal histories, woven into their most intimate details, is Prague itself, the city whose nature, mythical and yet all-too-real, gives shape and force to their desires while simultaneously determining their frustrations.



Leppin was the truly chosen bard of the painfully disappearing old Prague ... a poet of eternal disillusionment, at once a servant of the Devil and an adorer of the Madonna

— Max Brod

Leppin's work is steeped in decay and the shadowy recesses of the narrow mazed streets of Prague's Old Town—shadows, decay and mazes being fairly natural literary subjects for writers caught in a giant paradox: trying to represent their own and their culture's sudden re-awakening to the centrality of sex (thanks to Freud) in a culture whose instincts were decidedly bent toward sexual renunciation and guilt. If you've been raised to think of sex as evil, and then learn to believe that sex is all that can save you, you may end up writing tragic stories about sex-drunk whores who die conducting midnight orgies in the smoking ruins of their childhood home.

OC Weekly

A more sensual writer than Kafka, more observant and horrifying than Brod, more strange and free-spirited than Kisch, Leppin was a true son of [Prague]. Familiar with the whorehouses and bars, the machinations of shoemakers just-getting-by and the pervasive decay of the Habsburg monarchy, Leppin guides his readers into an underworld that's right around the corner.

Think Again

Prague before World War I must have been the cradle of twentieth-century existential paranoia ... Leppin (1878-1945), a civil servant revulsed by bourgeois life who reactively plunged into decadence, reads like the missing link between Baudelaire and the scalding satirical artist George Grosz.

— Roy Olson, Booklist

For Leppin Prague, and particularly its Jewish quarter, is the quintessential dead city ... [His] fairy tales are unique, however, in their combination of lyricism with a modernist disjointedness, concern with metatexts, and lack of completion pointing toward surrealism.

— Kristen Lodge, Slavic & East European Journal

These stories, beautifully translated, reveal the seedy underside of early twentieth-century Prague and advance a dark vision of humanity more generally. The specter of death haunts these stories, but less as something to fear than as a potential escape from a dull or meaningless existence in which love is a dim prospect at best. Leppin's characters dream or fantasize as a way of traversing the border between death and their trapped lives.


Others' Paradise is Paul Leppin's only collection of short stories, and this edition is the first complete translation of all eight, which were originally published in 1921. The stories, which portray a dark Prague infiltrating the travails of the human soul, made him a prominent figure early this century among the Prague German writers.

Velvet Magazine


ISBN 978 80 86264 07 3
140 pp.
13.5 x 19.5 cm
softcover with flaps
fiction : short stories & novellas

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