There were women, there were careless acts, there was London, there was France, there were legionnaires, there was a government in exile, there was a village by the name of Lidice, there was a young lookout called Valčík, there was a tram which went by (also at the worst possible moment), there was a death mask, there was a reward of ten million crowns for whoever denounced the gunmen, there were cyanide pills, there were grenades and people to throw them, there were radio transmitters and coded messages, there was a sprained ankle, there was penicillin that could be procured only in England, there was an entire city under the thumb of the man they nicknamed “the Hangman,” there were swastika flags and death’s-head insignias, there were German spies who worked for Britain, there was a black Mercedes with a blown tire, there was a chauffeur and a butcher, there were dignitaries gathered around a coffin, there were policemen bent over corpses, there were terrible reprisals, there was greatness and madness, weakness and betrayal, courage and fear, hope and grief, there were all the human passions brought together in a few square yards, there was war and there was death, there were Jews deported, families massacred, soldiers sacrificed, there was vengeance and political calculation, there was a man who was (among other things) an accomplished fencer and violinist, there was a locksmith who never managed to do his job, there was the spirit of the Resistance engraved forever in these walls, there were traces of the struggle between the forces of life and the forces of death, there was Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, there was all the history of the world contained in a few stones. There were seven hundred SS guards outside.
The good thing about writing a true story is that you don’t have to worry about giving an impression of realism.
Prague, city of a hundred towers, heart of the world, eye of my imagination’s hurricane, Prague with fingers of rain, the emperor’s Baroque dream, the soul’s music flowing under bridges, Emperor Charles IV, Jan Neruda, Mozart and Wenceslaus, Jan Hus, Jan Žižka, Josef K, Praha s prsty deste, the chem engraved in the Golem’s forehead, the headless horseman in Liliova Street, the iron man waiting to be liberated by a young girl once every hundred years, the sword hidden in a bridge support, and today the sound of boots marching, which will echo for … how much longer? A year. Perhaps two.