Read Utz by Bruce Chatwin Online

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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 preciouUtz 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....

Title : Utz
Author :
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ISBN : 9780140115765
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 154 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Utz Reviews

  • Maciek
    2018-12-30 04:06

    I've never read anything by Bruce Chatwin before, but judging from his biography he was an interesting fellow. Born in 1940, he was employed by Sotheby's to work at their art department and quickly became their expert on antique and impressionist pieces, known for his ability to discern forgeries; he eventually became the director. He was later hired by The Sunday Times and published articles for the magazine while traveling across the world and visiting its remote corners; he published a travel book, In Patagonia, and several novels. Utz is the last of them, published in 1988 - one year before the author's death from AIDS.The eponymous Utz is Kaspar Utz, a man of forgettable face but unforgettable passion - for porcelain figurines. Utz devoted his life to collecting his porcelain treasures, and ensuring their safety throughout the years and wars. He keeps all thousand pieces in his small, two-room apartment in Prague, permitted by the Czechoslovak regime to do so on the grounds that he will bequeath the entire collection to the state after his death. Although Utz is the main protagonist, he is not the narrator - the story begins with his funeral, and is narrated by a man who spent a little more than 9 hours with Utz when he was alive, and collected the rest from his few friends.The narrator first came to Prague to research a book about the psychology of collectors - which drew him to Utz, a Jewish man possibly descended from some minor Saxon nobility, and his passion for collecting porcelain. His devotion to Meissen porcelains is without parallel - during the war, he gave away all his other earthly belongings to secure a Czechoslovak passport and residence in Prague. The narrator meets with Utz, who talks with him about porcelain, alchemy and golems; much of the book is satire on the absurdity of totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, one of which Utz had to live in. This is best seen in the opening scene of the book - which, by the nature of being a funeral, should have been sad; but because the funeral takes place in 1974 in Czechoslovakia, it's darkly humorous. A man asks the narrator if he can play the organ, and upon hearing a negation he admits that he can't either, and resignedly goes to do exactly that. A cleaning woman refuses to move for the coffin bearers, and they have to go around her - and they have to hurry, as the state has ruled that all Christian rituals have to be done by 8.30 AM. There are many more such examples in the book, but I'll leave the fun of discovering to prospective readers. Although Utz could have used multiple opportunities to defect to the West, he was always dragged back to Prague - not by the government, but by his precious porcelain which he couldn't leave behind. He always came back to the city, and this is where he eventually died - which is where the book opens, and the narrator reaches full circle - learning more about Utz from his friends and acquaintances, he is able to present a more complete vision of Utz as a person. But can a person such as Utz ever truly be scrutinized and understood?Like Utz's figurines, the book itself is a miniature - it reads quickly, but but is packed with a multitude of references and observations - from the nature of humankind to specific political and social affairs of the era. I think it could be adapted excellently for stage, and for film - I'm surprised that no one has thought of it yet, given the success of last years's Grand Budapest Hotel. If you enjoyed that film, there is a chance that you will also enjoy Utz - and even if you didn't, there is little risk in dusting off this forgotten book and discovering the life of a little known Saxon baron who once held the largest porcelain collection in the whole of Bohemia.

  • arcobaleno
    2019-01-23 01:01

    Avevo sentito accennare a Bruce Chatwin e l'avevo collegato mentalmente ad uno scrittore di viaggi e avventure. Incuriosita, ho voluto assaggiare... e ho scelto, non so per quali motivi inspiegabili, "Utz". E mi sono ritrovata non in luoghi di possibili mete, né in posti esotici, né a conoscere gente per il mondo, ma, inaspettatamente, a percorrere un viaggio a ritroso per alcuni anni dell'ultimo secolo, tramite le porcellane Meissen. Il barone Kaspar von Utz ne possiede infatti, a Praga, una spettacolare collezione che, grazie alle sue abili manovre, era sopravvissuta alla seconda guerra mondiale e agli anni dello stalinismo in Cecoslovacchia. Nel 1967 contava più di mille pezzi, tutti stipati nel minuscolo appartamento di due stanze in via Siroka.Orlìk, studioso di arte rinascimentale, sulle tracce dell'Imperatore Rodolfo II viene a contatto con Utz; ed è Orlìk a raccontarci dunque la vita solitaria dell'appassionato e maniacale collezionista sempre in fuga tra Praga, Dresda, Vichy per riuscire a conservare intatto il suo fragile tesoro; finché situazioni varie lo portano a una decisione drastica. La scrittura è essenziale, pulita, efficace, e con veli di ironia. Ben organizzato il racconto, benché passi da un tempo all'altro, da un luogo all'altro. Le vicende storiche che ne costituiscono la struttura chiariscono bene l'ambiente e l'atmosfera, pur rimanendo nello sfondo. Pochi i personaggi, ma ben caratterizzati. Con discrezione viene presentato anche il rapporto con la domestica con la quale Utz condivide fino alla morte peripezie e risoluzioni. Molti poi i riferimenti culturali con cui Chatwin arricchisce la narrazione. Ma sempre rimane nel lettore un alone di mistero, come se il narratore avesse voluto rispecchiare e riprodurre quella reticenza che per le necessità contingenti i personaggi attuavano; un che di vago che dà completezza e forza alla storia.

  • Roberto
    2019-01-14 00:17

    "Le cose, riflettei, sono meno fragili delle persone. Le cose sono lo specchio immutabile in cui osserviamo la nostra disgregazione. Nulla ci invecchia più di una collezione di opere d'arte"Il barone Kaspar von Utz, discendente da una nobile famiglia di proprietari terrieri, si rifugia nel collezionismo quasi maniacale di porcellane, che inizia ad acquistare pian piano fin da giovane. La sua collezione, composta da un numero esorbitante di pezzi importantissimi, grazie alla sua perspicacia ed attenzione riesce a sopravvivere agli orrori della guerra ed arrivare a Praga, durante il regime cecoslovacco. Nelle difficili condizioni di Praga, Utz cerca di passare inosservato insieme alla sua preziosa collezione che attira ovviamente i burocrati di regime. Nonostante abbia continuamente la possibilità di fuggire in occidente, l'amore per la sua collezione lo blocca a Praga, città che da una parte ama ma dall'altra non sopporta più per la grettezza del regime. Utz alla fine si rovina la vita rimanendo aggrappato ed intrappolato dalla meravigliosa collezione che non si sente di abbandonare; è come se fosse la collezione a possedere lui, piuttosto che il viceversa.Meravigliosa l'erudizione di Chatwin; la sua capacità di destare interesse, di insegnare e di ironizzare è formidabile. In questo suo piccolo ultimo libro, originale e avvincente, si passa dalle filosofie antiche all'alchimia, dalla pietra filosofale e del suo legame con le porcellane all'attinenza del nome porcellana con il maiale, dalla leggenda dei Golem all'ebraismo, dalla storia europea del '900 alle bellezze di Praga. Chatwin, tramite Utz che dedica la sua vita a collezionare cose belle ma fragili e inutili, ci suggerisce che nella vita non dobbiamo solo lavorare e guadagnare, ma dedicarci anche al culto della cultura e del bello. Curiosamente, le relazioni non sono prese in considerazione...Un libro estremamente raffinato, suggestivo e appassionante.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-01-07 01:57

    Set during the last years of Czechoslovakia before the end of communism this short novel is based around a meeting between the author, who descends down into his own novel(view spoiler)[ rather as in his travel writing there is an interplay between the potentially real and the probably fictional so to there is an uncertain shifting between the two as though the author was seeking to both expose and cover his nakedness at the same time and blurs the difference between fiction and non-fiction, instead in the end there is neither, just Chatwin himself, or maybe there isn't (hide spoiler)] and the character of Utz, a collector of porcelain and their discussion around his collection and the nature and history of European porcelain (view spoiler)[ which is moderately more engaging than it sounds (hide spoiler)]. The rest of the story (view spoiler)[ featuring what happened to his collection and his sexual tastes(view spoiler)[ which don't involve porcelain (view spoiler)[ if as in Chatwin's travel writings, the theme of the book is Chatwin himself (hide spoiler)] then it is not surprising that revelation is slow, through conversation with many people, there is a display of hidden depths by means of the history of porcelain and the necessity of hiding, Utz needs to hide his collection from the authorities while Chatwin needs both to hide himself and reveal himself to potential hostile and unknown others through plausible fantasies, which test our acceptance of him(hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] is reconstructed after the death of Utz. Reaching for the effect of a feature in the Sunday supplements (view spoiler)[ but without the full page colour photographs (hide spoiler)], a couple of hours worth of reading from a dead author about a vanished country and a lost world of European porcelain.

  • Andrew
    2019-01-01 00:04

    Chatwin's sentences are as chiseled little jewels in museum cases. He's part of that wonderful tradition of chilly literary craftsmanship that counts Borges, Sebald, and Nabokov among its members.Utz is the first of Chatwin's fiction works I've read, and it bears much in common with his travel writing. To be, like, ultra-lame, I would make the comparison between his prose and the Meissen porcelain he writes about, but I'm not. Instead, I'll say that it is brilliantly, deceptively simple. He just says things with as straight a face as you can imagine. And the effects stay with you for a long time after, especially on that lonely train ride home, especially on that return to an empty apartment.

  • Roberta
    2019-01-04 01:07

    Don't get fooled by the shortness of the booklet: the story is quite rich. We meet this self-centered mr Utz on the day of his funeral, through the memories of an acquaintance of his. Mr Utz has been a spoiled child and an eccentric adult, a bourgeoisie in a communist country. He's a collector, and an addicted to porcelain. But the is also delusional. I get the sophistication of the story, but I don't get the story. I've been indifferent to Utz's struggling and suffering.

  • piperitapitta
    2019-01-13 03:01

    La collezione proibita.Strano romanzo questo Utz, breve quanto intenso, multiforme e cangiante.Non avevo mai letto niente di Chatwin, ma per sentito dire o per articoli letti qua e là mi immaginavo viaggi avventurosi in terre lontane oltreoceano.Mi sono ritrovata invece a Praga, «la più misteriosa tra le città europee», a viaggiare nella mente indecifrabile di Utz, un ricco collezionista di porcellane settecentesche della casa Meissen di Dresda; di origine tedesca, ebreo per parte di madre, Utz è un personaggio indecifrabile, ora ironico e sprezzante, ora romantico e nostalgico, barone per caso, ma che vive senza agi né sfarzo, unicamente del suo amore per la bellezza e per la perfezione dei suoi pezzi da collezione dal valore inestimabile. Chatwin, rievoca qui un fatto realmente accadutogli verso la fine degli anni Sessanta, quando già direttore della prestigiosa casa d'aste Sotheby's si recò nella Cecoslovachia pre-invasione sovietica per incontrare il famoso collezionista Rudolf Just e scoprire i segreti della sua collezione.In un lungo ricordo, l'io narrante del romanzo, lo stesso Chatwin appunto, cerca di scoprire che fine abbia fatto la preziosa collezione dopo la morte di Utz: quella stessa collezione che l'eccentrico protagonista aveva difeso con grande forza e determinazione, dal nazismo e dalla guerra prima e dal comunismo e dal marxismo poi, che sembra ora essersi volatilizzata o addirittura, nonostante le fitte maglie della burocrazia comunista, andata distrutta.Quella di Utz e delle sue statuine sembra essere una danza senza tempo, ballata sulle note di una nostalgia impalpabile, una danza delle ore scandita con lentezza dalla dedizione assoluta di Utz e dalla sua incapacità di subirne un distacco: la stessa che la fedele cameriera Martha riserverà al suo padrone sino alla fine dei suoi giorni.Alla fine, nonostante avranno attraversato i secoli e i confini degli imperi della Sassonia e degli Asburgo, nonostante avranno attraversato le frontiere del Reich e quelle della Cortina di ferro, nonostante tutto, sulle statuine Messen della collezione Utz, non si sarà mai posato nemmeno un granello di polvere.Perché come Utz sosteneva, un oggetto chiuso nella teca di un museo deve patire l'innaturale esistenza di un animale in uno zoo. In ogni museo l'oggetto muore - di soffocamento e degli sguardi del pubblico -, mentre il possesso privato conferisce al proprietario il bisogno di toccare. Come un bimbo allunga la mano per toccare ciò di cui pronuncia il nome, così il collezionista appassionato restituisce all'oggetto, gli occhi in armonia con la mano, il tocco vivificante del suo artefice. Il nemico del collezionista è il conservatore del museo. In teoria, i musei dovrebbero essere saccheggiati ogni cinquant'anni e le loro collezioni dovrebbero tornare in circolazione...Peccato che Chatwin non abbia mai saputo del ritorno "in circolazione" della collezione Meissen di Just, il tesoro che sembrava svanito nel nulla...http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/20...Un'ultima annotazione va alla scrittura colta e raffinata di Chatwin: amo i libri che fanno conoscere nuovi mondi e insegnare nuove cose; amo ancor di più i libri che sanno stimolare il lettore ad affrontare nuove letture: La montagna incantata di Thomas Mann, La signora col cagnolino di Cechov, e ancora Zweig, Schnitzler, e per finire L'immoralista di André Gide: la mia piccola collezione dopo la lettura di questo romanzo."E io capii, mentre Utz faceva ruotare la statuetta alla luce della candela, che lo avevo giudicato male; che anche lui stava danzando; che per lui il vero mondo era il mondo di quelle figurine, e che, paragonate a loro, la Gestapo, la polizia segreta e furfanti vari non erano che creature di latta. Gli eventi di questo fosco secolo - i bombardamenti, i Blitzkrieg, i colpi di stato, le purghe - erano, per quel che lo riguardava, altrettanti «rumori di fondo»".

  • Douglas Dalrymple
    2019-01-24 01:10

    I don’t know why or when I began to be suspicious of fiction, but somewhere along the line I came to look on the reading of novels as a guilty pleasure, a distraction from the business of more serious reading. This is an absurd notion, of course, and it embarrasses me to write it down. The undergraduate English major still lurking somewhere deep within me is really quite shocked. But I make no excuse for myself; I only admit the fact.I’ve read a lot of Bruce Chatwin and enjoyed all of it, but I’ve so far limited myself to his ostensibly non-fiction works. (Admittedly, the line between fiction and non-fiction is a hazy one with Chatwin, but I’m thinking here of his travelogues like In Patagonia.) Curiously, then, it was a work of non-fiction, Frederik Sjoberg’s The Fly Trap, that sparked my interest in Utz as an example of Chatwin-the-novel-writer.I simply loved this book. I read it in two enraptured sittings and was tempted to start over again from the beginning. Chatwin’s eccentricities are all there (the story includes memorable discursions on Renaissance alchemists, the origin of central European porcelain manufactures, and the true nature and powers of the Prague golem) but they’re given fresh shape and breath in the memorable characters of Utz himself, his friend Orlik, and his housekeeper Marta. What’s more, I can’t remember Chatwin’s prose ever reading better than it does in Utz. And while there’s a certain pathos to the story, it’s also very funny – as in I actually laughed out loud more than once. I don’t know what to compare it to, except maybe a Werner Herzog movie. In the end, Utz may feel like a guilty pleasure, but only because I suspect it was written with me personally in mind.

  • Elisa
    2018-12-29 23:02

    Se Fredrik Sjöberg dice che esistono altri libri in cui compaiono collezionisti di mosche, io devo recuperare subito quei libri.Utz però è un collezionista di ceramiche e forse è ancora meglio, la sua ossessione sinistra, inquietante e malata lo porta a spostarsi, a mercanteggiare, a giungere a compromessi, a mentire ed imbrogliare, a nascondersi e a scappare. Utz è un personaggio estremamente affascinante e, seppur esplorato attentamente nei meandri della sua mente, non del tutto comprensibile e razionalizzabile. Inoltre la scrittura di Chatwin è intensa e trascinante, in questo romanzo mi ha ricordato Zweig, con quella sua abilità a condurre il lettore nelle profondità più oscure dell'animo umano.Quindi, ottimo consiglio Fredrik, grazie.

  • Vince Donovan
    2019-01-05 05:00

    I have a special relationship with this book. I read it while I was living abroad and it really sparked something special inside me. To me this book is the perfect intersection of language, humor, and intelligence, and I realized that was the same feeling I hoped to stir with my own writing.It's a very simple story and a short one, almost a child's fable. The narrator goes to Prague (during the iron curtain days) to track down a man rumored to have an incredible collection of Meissen china. What follows is a gentle but intricate investigation into art, collecting, obsession, and love.

  • Matt
    2019-01-19 00:20

    About 3/4 of the way in and I'm finding it really easy to read. It's sneakily subversive, witty, elegant in a quiet way and really gets its hooks into you. Absorbing, slightly absurd, legitimately funny and slyly knowing.It was pressed on me by a drunken friend who insisted that I check it out. It was also among the 5,000 books namedropped by Hitchens (in a personal essay, though, and I think he probably knew the author well) so that's always a plus.So far at least it's the kind of book that feels longer than its actual page or plot length, but not in a lugubrious, dragging kind of way.I'm savoring it and am trying to finish it with a suitable mindset- hushed, receptive and open. Like...I don't know...a collector of antique porcelain might be. (Sorry if you already know what I'm talking about, I had to do it)In an effort to really explain what I mean about how great this book is, here's some wonderful quotes and scene-setting: The story opens with the titular character's funeral: "The bearers- employees of a rubber factory who worked night-shift and doubled for the undertaker by day- had shouldered the coffin and were advancing up the main aisle: to music that reminded Orlik of the tramp of soldiers on parade. Halfway to the altar the procession met the cleaning woman, who, with soap, water and a scrubbing-brush, was scrubbing at the blazon of the Rozemberk family, inlaid into the floor in many-coloured marbles.The leading bearer asked the woman, most politely, to allow the coffin to pass. She scowled and went on scrubbing. The bearers had no alternative but to take a left turn between two pews, a right turn up the side aisle, and another right to pass the pulpit. Eventually, they arrived before the altar where a youngish priest, his surplice stained with sacramental wine, was anxiously biting his fingernails. They set down the coffin with a show of reverence. Then, attracted by the smell of hot bread from a bakery along the street, they strolled off to get breakfast leaving Orlik and the faithful Marta as the only mourners. The priest mumbled the service at the speed of a patter number and, from time to time, lifted his eyes towards a fresco of the Heavenly Heights. After commending the dead man's soul, they had to wait at least ten minutes before the bearers condescended to return, at 8.26." So the nondescript, enigmatic mister Utz is a somewhat-obsessed collector of antique porcelain, which is to say he suffers fromPorzellankrankheit,and is a sort of a Bartleby the Scrivener in Communist Prague, and we and the narrator visit him and learn a bit about his whys and wherefores (such as they are, and they are indeed, as we slowly discover and come to understand, though Utz remains essentially ungraspable throughout) including his living situation: "The room, to my surprise, was decorated in the 'modern style': almost devoid of furniture apart from a daybed, a glass-topped table and a pair of Barcelona chairs upholstered in dark green leather. Utz had 'rescued' these in Moravia, from a house built by Mies van der Rohe. It was a narrow room, made narrower by the double bank of plate-glass shelves, all of them crammed with porcelain, that reached from floor to ceiling. The shleves were backed with mirror, so that you had the illusion of entering an enfilade of glittering chambers, a 'dream palace' multiplied to infinity, through which human forms flitted like insubstantial shadows. The carpet was grey. You had to watch your step for fear of tripping over one of the white porcelain sculptures- a pelican, a turkey-cock, a bear, a lynx and a rhino- modelled either by Kaendler or Eberlein for the Japanese Palace in Dresden. All five were scarred with fissures caused by faults in the firing... Utz had chosen each item to reflect the moods and facets of the 'Porcelain Century': the wit, the charm, the gallantry, the love of the exotic, the heartlessness and light-hearted gaiety- before they were swept away by revolution and the tramp of armies." And then you get this: "No. He was not a spy. As he explained to me in the course of our afternoon stroll, Czechoslovakia was a pleasant place to live, providing one had the possibility of leaving. At the same time he admitted, with a self-deprecating smile, that his severe case of Porzellankheit prevented him from leaving for good. The collection held him prisoner. 'And, of course, it has ruined my life!' Ah, sure, and our obsessions do begin to wall us in a little bit, indeed, but...as we read the porcelain begins to take on a different meaning: "'Are you trying to tell me that Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo were cermaic figures?" 'They could have been,' he answered. 'They certainly survived the fire.' 'I see,' I said. 'So you do think the porcelains are alive?' 'I do and I do not,' he sniggered. 'Porcelains die in the fire ,and then they come alive again. The kiln, you must understand, is Hell. The temperature for firing porcelain is 1,450 degrees centigrade.' 'Yes,' I said. Utz's flights of fancy made me feel quite dizzy. He appeared to be saying that the earliest European porcelain- Bottiger's red ware and white ware- corresponded to the red and white tinctures of the alchemists. To a superstitious old roue like Augustus, the manufacture of porcelain was an approach to the Philosopher's Stone. If this were so: if, to the eighteenth-century imagination, porcelain was not just another exotic, but a magical and talismanic substance- the substance of longevity, of potency, of invulnerability- then it was easier to understand why the King would stuff a palace with forty thousand pieces. Or guard the 'arcanum' like a secret weapon. Or swap the six hundred giants. Porcelain, Utz, concluded, was the antidote to decay. The illusion was, of course, shattered by Frederick the Great who simply loaded the contents of the Meissen factory onto ox-carts and sent it, as booty, to Berlin. 'But Frederik,' Utz fluttered his eyelids, '...and with all that musical talent!...was really an absolute philistine!' Going a little further here, pointing out the individually realized Grecian Urns of Utz's massive, world-spanning collection: "I have said that Utz's face was 'waxy in texture', but now in the candlelight its texture seemed like melted wax. I looked at the ageless complexion of the Dresden ladies. Things, I reflected, are tougher than people. Things are the changeless mirror in which we watch ourselves disintegrate. Nothing is more age-ing than a collection of works of art. One by one, he lifted the characters of the Commedia from the shelves, and placed them in the pool of light where they appeared to skate over the glass of the table, pioting on their bases of gilded foam, as if they would forever go on laughing, whirling, improvising. Scaramouche would strum on his guitar. Brighella would liberate people's purses. The Captain would swagger childishly like all army officers. The Doctor would kill his patient in order to rid him of his disease. The coils of spaghetti would be eternally poised above Pulchinella's nostrils. Pantaloon would gloat over his money-bags. The Innamorata, like all transvestites everywhere, would be mobbed on his way to the theatre. Columbine would be endlessly in love with Harlequin- 'absolutely mad to trust him'. And Harlequin ...The Harlequin...the arch-improviser, the zany, trickster, master of the volte-face...would forever strut in his variegated plumage, grin through his orange mask, tiptoe into bedrooms, sell nappies for the children of the Grand Eunuch, dance in the teeth of catastrophe...Mr Chameleon himself! And as I recalled, as Utz pivoted the figure in the candlelight, that I had misjudged him; that he, too, was dancing; that, for him, this world of little figures was the real world. And that, compared to them, the Gestapo, the Secret Police and other hooligans were creatures of tinsel. And the events of this sombre century- the bombardments, blitzkriegs, putsches, purges- were, so far as he was concernedm so many 'noises off'. 'And now,' he said, 'we shall go. We shall go for a walk.'" If hope, if you're reading this, you've gotten an idea of what a wonderfully wry, subtle, knowing and beautiful book this is, and I sincerely hope you read it. Do it for the collectors (I mean, come on, if you're on this site, you probably fit the bill), do it for the porcelain, do it for Utz!

  • Anfri Bogart
    2018-12-29 20:56

    Una perla questo ultimo scritto di Chatwin, che ci dà un'idea di quanto fosse colto e curioso. C'è anche l'opportunità di imparare qualcosa sulla storia delle porcellane di Meissen, da farne buon uso nelle conversazioni al bar (per stupire gli amici).

  • Laura
    2018-12-30 01:01

    A British academic travels to 1960s Prague to research the art collection of Rudolf II. A historian friend introduces him to the eccentric and utterly dogged porcelain collector, Kaspar Joachim Utz. From this encounter an extraordinary story of obsession and survival emerges: for Utz has protected his vast collection of Meissen figurines from Nazis, Stalinist ideologues and the demands of Communist museum curators.After the Soviet invasion of 1968, all contact between the men ceases and Utz dies. In the last part of the play, our narrator returns to Prague in the late 1980s- as the Communist system is in its death-throes- to learn what became of Utz's collection. Was it appropriated by the State, or sold off to some secret enthusiast?Is it conceivable that the porcelain figurines were destroyed to prevent such eventualities? The Englishman interviews several figures from Utz's life as he tries to piece together the puzzle of the man and his vanished achievement. Where is the collection now? And who, really, was Utz's maid, Marta, to the deceased? For it may be (as the narrator speculates among blacklisted writers turned garbage men) that human love came to eclipse his priceless objects d'art in the heart of Kaspar Utz.This is the twist in the final minutes of the play. Although the marriage to his servant was undertaken in 1952 for purely selfish reasons (Utz had to be married in order to keep his home), over the decades that followed Marta fought off her more attractive rivals- for Utz, we also learn, was devastatingly attractive to a particular kind of woman- and finally cemented her status as the central figure in his life. This dramatisation by Gregory Norminton of Chatwin's last novel is an intriguing and comic mystery story.

  • Adam Dalva
    2018-12-29 01:50

    I, of course, am a dealer of porcelain (and some of them Meissen), so this book was unusually close to my everyday life. Chatwin's passages on the pleasure and insanity of collecting (particularly the intense negotiation scene) were some of my favorites, though I don't know how well they'd translate to the collective you.But! The book's treatment of Czechoslovakia is fascinating, Utz himself is a pleasure of a character, the book is light and funny, and there's a sequence in homage to Magic Mountain that was a huge pleasure. A touch OVER-plotted (I don't think Chatwin appreciated the joy of the simplicity of the book's first half), and some really bad hair similes are the only real issues here. I read it in 80 minutes, and you should too. Chatwin had an exceedingly interesting life and this is a good introduction to his talent.

  • Trelawn
    2019-01-05 05:03

    On the surface this is a story about an obsessive porcelain collector in Prague whom the narrator encounters in the 60s. But this short novel explores the idea of art and people who collect. It also examines the idea of perception and whether things are ever as they seem. An interesting and thought provoking work by an author I recently discovered and am thoroughly enjoying.

  • Sue
    2019-01-21 22:51

    Enjoyable novella about a collector living in Prague who remains an enigma until the end. He collects porcelain, is obsessed by it. Lots of information in the story about porcelain and mythology. A really interesting read.

  • Spotsalots
    2019-01-20 21:04

    I finally got around to reading this. I recall there being quite a stir about it when it came out; various friends were sure I'd love it because I had been to Prague.I'm not entirely sure what I think of it. It's well written and I might have been quite taken with it had I read it in 1989. Unquestionably I would have liked it very much had I read it earlier in the 80s (but of course it wasn't yet written then). Now, however, I'm not particularly taken with the title character (which is perfectly all right and is not a complaint) and I was a little put off by the recounting of "historical" material about the Golem because it's hardly as though Meyrink's story is a historically accurate account of the Jews in Prague. (Sometimes it's dangerous to know too much about a topic, and not only do I know a certain amount about the Golem legends but I had just been reading Meyrink, Leppin, Kafka, Karasek, and other mostly fin-de-siecle Prague writers who invented or went wild with such legends.) It's not that writers today can't adopt and adapt legends, it's that Chatwin or the Chatwin-esque narrator could have done the Golem bit just as effectively without swallowing Meyrink's invention whole. So I suppose I could say that the book was good in its way but I could have read it at a more fortuitous time, when not in the midst of a scholarly project involving absorbing seemingly massive amounts of earlier literary evocations of Prague. The book feels a little as though Chatwin had dipped into that literature and decided to write the late-Communist equivalent of a Prague decadent novel. Ah--that's it. Had Karasek been translated into English, I would have guessed Chatwin had been reading him.

  • Shevaun Ruby
    2019-01-06 05:16

    'I will order trout.''There are no trout,' said the head-waiter.'What can you mean, no trout?' said Utz. 'There are trout. Many trout.''There is no net.''What can you mean, no net? Last week there was a net.''Is broken.''Broken, I do not believe.'The head-waiter put a finger to his lips, and whispered, 'These trout are reserved.''For them?''Them,' he nodded.Four fat men were eating trout at a nearby table.'Very well,' said Utz. 'I will eat eels. You also will eat eels?''I will,' I said.'There are no eels,' said the waiter.'No eels? This is bad. What have you?''We have carp.''Carp only?''Carp.'-------------------------I just really liked this exchange.

  • Moureco
    2019-01-05 04:13

    "Ao preservar da colectivização a sua colecção particular de porcelanas de Meissem, Kaspar Utz encontrou um refúgio contra os horrores do século XX. Comparadas com a delicada realidade das suas figuirinhas, salvas e seguras na mágica cidade de Praga, a Gestapo e a polícia secreta eram para Utz de somenos importância. Confinado ao pequeno apartamento onde as preciosas figurinhas ocupam todo o espaço, servido pela fiel criada Marta com a mesma cerimónia de outrora, Kaspar Utz tem o supremo snobismo de viver como se o Estado não existisse." Um livro precioso. Edição portuguesa da Quetzal.

  • Alisea
    2019-01-01 21:09

    Difficile esprimere un commento.E' scritto benissimo ma non sono riuscita a entrare nella storia: forse perché troppo breve, forse perché il protagonista non mi ha trasmesso niente, forse perché mi sono dovuta fermare e ricercare informazioni che nel testo erano date per conosciute...Una lettura breve ma difficile e pesante

  • Nell Grey
    2019-01-22 22:00

    Bruce Chatwin considered Utz to be a work of fiction, but it's written in such a way that it feels true. The narrator's voice is identical to that of the author's in In Patagonia, a journal of his travels (although one with more than a hint of the surreal and bizarre), and stylistically Utz follows a similar structure. The story centres around the character of Kasper Utz and his amazing and valuable collection of Meissen porcelain, both trapped in Czechoslovakia during the turbulent and dangerous years of the Cold War. In order to be able to escape from time to time, Utz signs away his precious and passionately-loved collection to the State, on the condition that he's allowed to keep it until his death. Although he could defect during these episodes of time away, the collection has to remain in the country and it always draws him back. I enjoyed the journalistic feel of the first two-thirds of the book, which adds to the strange feeling of uncertainty about Utz's existence: historic details and information about porcelain, the figurines, the atmosphere of the different locations, the political climate - even alchemy puts in an appearance.I won't spoil the end, which is brilliant in its own special and original way, and not really like a novel at all, although it answered the question about reality posed at the beginning. I loved it.

  • James
    2019-01-01 01:51

    I read this beautiful little 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 at University of Chicago 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.

  • Angela
    2018-12-25 02:14

    Utz is the story of Utz, a collector of fine porcelains. I have to admit the story was bizarre and somewhat hard to understand. The basic premise is before the war, Utz was a baron with a large estate. As a young child living with his grandmother, he took a fondness to porcelain figurines, using his money to purchase pieces. As he got older, he refined his tastes to learn between those pieces which were great and those which were fakes or sub-par. With the onset of World War II, he packaged up his porcelains and fled the country with them to live in Czechoslovakia. Once established there in a small apartment, he unpacked his treasures and put them on display. I honestly don't know what I got out of this read. At some point you realize that you're a certain length through the book and may as well continue to the end. It was a small book, so I didn't feel like I was spending too much time reading through it. This is one that I probably wouldn't recommend to my friends - it just wasn't all that entertaining or interesting.

  • Kevin Argus
    2019-01-14 03:14

    Bruce Chatwin is one of my favourite authors. He educates richly regarding each book's context as he writes. This book provided insight into how humans seek to control their world, (and for men) motivated by a fear of death. His main character collects porcelain objects (a very wealthy man), and when the Soviets took control, he remained the custodian of his now Soviet owned collection. It turns out that his motive for collecting porcelain figurines, was that they retained their beauty, never aging, and therefore were ageless. However, towards the end he destroys his Portcelain collection and becomes passionately involved with his plain-looking, middle-aged house servant, whom he had previously never viewed with desire. Finally, he recognises that age is not the enemy of passion and that passion experienced, superseeds passion preserved via porcelain objects. One of my favourite books - I've read this many times.

  • Rita De oliveira
    2019-01-15 23:19

    Bruce Chatwin ficou conhecido pelos seus livros de viagens, mas foi um livro de ficção o último que escreveu antes de morrer. Em Utz, ficamos a conhecer a obsessão do protagonista, Kaspar Utz, pela sua coleção de porcelanas de Meissen, obsessão tal que condicionou toda a sua existência.Judeu a viver em Praga no período da Guerra Fria, ao longo da sua vida Utz tem uma série de oportunidades para desertar para oeste, mas o amor à sua coleção fá-lo sempre voltar a casa. Ao longo da história, narrada por um investigador, vamos tendo perceções muito diferentes acerca de Utz, de velho obcecado a homem promíscuo, mergulhando cada vez mais na trama em busca das porcelanas desaparecidas após a sua morte.Mais um de que me aproximei por causa da capa e de que não me arrependi.Nota: Nunca tinha lido nada de Bruce Chatwin, gostei muito da sua escrita, limpa e com um toque divertido.http://vespaaabrandar.blogspot.pt/201...

  • Kua
    2019-01-19 20:52

    Piccolo libricino, preso quasi per caso e che invece si è rivelato una lettura molto coinvolgente. Primo romanzo che mi capita di leggere di Bruce Chatwin, è anche l'ultimo che il grande viaggiatore ha scritto prima di morire. La storia racconta del barone Utz e della sua fantastica collezione di porcellane Meissen e di come tutta la sua vita sia stata condizionata da questa passione. Molto profondo nel descrivere i tratti di questa ossessione, racconta la lotta di Utz per preservare dallo sfacelo la sua preziosa collezione, unica cosa di cui veramente gli importi. Inchinandosi a tutti gli sconvolgimenti politici della storia, dai nazisti della seconda guerra mondiale fino ad arrivare ai burocrati del regime comunista, riesce, fino alla morte, a non separarsi mai dai suoi amati ninnoli di porcellana.

  • Matthew Stuart
    2019-01-21 05:08

    I have read non fiction by the author and was impressed. "In Patagonia" was excellent as I recall. So I was a bit surprised to see he had written fiction. Fiction about a porcelain collector too. He really does capture the spirit of the collector. How he ends up intertwined with his collection. Almost like a married couple that starts to look alike as they get older, the collector becomes more and more like a part of his collection. All in all a well told tale.

  • Sezín Koehler
    2019-01-13 20:55

    I think this might be my favorite book about Prague I've read so far. The story is charming and dark in that distinct Czech way even though it's not written by a Czech. And it so perfectly encapsulates life during some of Prague's darker days. The ending left me chuckling with its almost painful irony.

  • Jason Mashak
    2019-01-14 02:00

    Well-told story, yet missing something... like maybe the reason for telling it? The narrator seems too detached from it, as if he's being forced to tell it. Still, for the cultural aspects alone, it's worth reading (it's short and reads quickly), as it gives one a good look at Czechoslovakia during and immediately after the Iron Curtain.

  • Peggy
    2019-01-19 03:13

    "In Grimm's Etymological Wordbook, 'utz' carries any number of negative connotations: 'drunk', 'dimwit', 'cardsharp', 'dealer in dud horses'. 'Heinzen, Kunzen, Utzen oder Butzen', in the dialect of Lower Swabia, is the equivalent of 'Any Tim, Dick or Harry."funny, riveting and a quick read.