by Bruce Chatwin


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An elegant novel set in Prague about the possibility of freedom in an unfree state, from the acclaimed author of The Songlines and In Patagonia

Utz collects Meissen porcelain with a passion. His collection, which he has protected and enlarged through both World War II and Czechoslovakia's years of Stalinism, numbers more than 1,000 pieces, all crammed into his two-room Prague flat.

Utz is allowed to leave the country each year, and although he has considered defection, he always returns. He cannot take his precious collection with him, but he cannot leave it, either. And so Utz is as much owned by his porcelain as it is owned by him, as much of a prisoner of the collection as of the Communist state.

A fascinating, enigmatic man, Kaspar Utz is one of Bruce Chatwin's finest creations. And his story, as delicately cast as one of Utz's porcelain figures, is unforgettable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140115765
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1989
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 585,935
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Bruce Chatwin (1940–1989) was the author of In Patagonia, The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz. His other books are What Am I Doing Here and Anatomy of Restlessness, posthumous anthologies of shorter works, and Far Journeys, a collection of his photographs that also includes selections from his travel notebooks.

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Utz 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this beautiful small book with the Lincoln Park Book Group and fell in love with the writing of Bruce Chatwin. More recently it was included in a class I took on the literature of Prague. Fundamentally it is the story of Kaspar Utz, who lives in Prague and who is consumed by collecting figurines and living a quiet life under the communist system. Utz is painted as a prisoner to his dolls while he lives under a totalitarian regime, so when he leaves on his annual sabbatical to Vichy in France, he finds capitalist life not to his liking, even though he has an alleged fortune in Swiss banks enabling him to enjoy a nice standard of living abroad, he misses his figurines and wants to return back home. But really, that isn¿t him, he was a state collaborator acting on small tasks when he was abroad and he enjoyed living under the Soviet system as he was comfortable with his life there. This is highlighted by the way he keeps his figurines so that only he can enjoy them, not the state, and that in an era where drabness is the norm, he can stand out from the crowd and lure partners with his goods brought overseas and obtained locally on the black market. Chatwin creates a unique and believable world in this small jewel of a story.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a decent enough story about Kasper Utz, an obsessive collecter of Meissan porcelain during WWII and the following years in Stalin's Czechoslovakia. Utz manages to protect his collection during the many years of political instability in his native Prague but upon his death it will go to the state, or will it?
thorold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, delicate and ambiguous novella about compulsive collecting, authoritarian governments, death, love and Mitteleuropa. With Chatwin's usual talent for parachuting, he somehow managed to extract enough information from a couple of brief visits and some secondhand anecdotes to convince us that he knows Prague better than Klima, Havel, Kundera and Hasek all rolled into one. It's a trick, but it works. Chatwin wrote this when he was getting over a serious illness, and not very long before his death, so there's a great temptation to read it biographically. That's probably a mistake: the relatively compact form and tight organisation certainly had something to do with this being a project for a period of convalescence, but I don't think he was thinking any more about mortality than at other times — in On the black hill, for instance. By all accounts he wasn't someone who was especially conscious of approaching death.A pity about the horrible Penguin US paperback, set in a Bodoni so smudged and inky it looks as though they've done the whole thing in bold type by mistake. You could wrap chips in it. Who had the bright idea to put playing-cards on the cover of a book dealing with porcelain...?