What is the best-known book set in the Czech Republic?

See note on methodology

This one is a slightly tough call, though I don’t think either of the options is surprising. The book most often tagged “Czech” on Goodreads and LibaryThing is a well-known novel of the Cold War, first published in French in 1984, and memorably filmed in English in 1988. It’s certainly the most widely-owned book on both LT and GR which was originally written in Czech. But in terms of number of owners, it ranks only second on GoodReads, and though it tops the ranking on LibraryThing, a bit of digging gives me suspicions which I will explain below. Anyway, it is:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being / Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, by Milan Kundera

The top-ranked “Czech”-tagged book on Goodreads by ownership appears, appropriately enough, in a number of different shapes on LibraryThing (which is generally more fussy about keeping editions separate). Adding together the top ten (of dozens) of the various editions on LT, one easily surpasses the Prague Spring novel’s total, so I am counting it as the winner for today. Published in German in 1915, and possibly the shortest book I’ll mention in this series of posts at a mere 53 pages, it is of course:

The Metamorphosis / Die Verwandlung, by Franz Kafka

Close behind those two – but clearly behind both – is another tale of Habsburg paranoia by the same writer, published in 1925, the year after his death. It is:

The Trial / Der Process, by Franz Kafka
(NB he always used the spelling “Process”, though standard German is of course “Prozeß”.)

Bubbling under: Jaroslav Hašek, Bohumil Hrabal, Karel Čapek

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