From the novel in progress, an excerpt from the title story, "Antosha in Prague."
Have Moscow and Petersburg burnt to the ground? Has there been an outbreak of Black Plague? Has my first play been revived only to fail with a great public outcry of disgust and I am now persona non grata even to my friends? Why do you not answer my letters? Today it is cold and a wind rushes violently down every street in Prague, as if the seasons are quarreling and winter has for the moment taken the upper hand from springtime. The sky is crowded with scruffs of lumpy gray clouds, like undercooked dumplings or boils full of pus. I’m told that rain is normal for spring here, just as it is everywhere in Europe, but it is unseasonably cold these last days, and in fact it hasn’t rained in nearly a fortnight. After breakfast I wrapped myself in my winter coat and walked through the Mala Strana, a tall hillside of parkland, fruit trees, abandoned hermits’ caves, and cultivated grape which rises up south of the old royal castle. There is a church and an ancient monastery at the summit of the hill, which you mount by following a winding stone pathway with many staircases and steep granite inclines, built centuries ago by peasants during a famine in exchange for rations of bread from the king’s stores. It was windy in the park, the trees rattling like an orchestra of skeletons. My hat was blown from my head and though I chased after it, it was lost over an old stone wall that seemed to materialize from nowhere. The wall was higher than I could climb over without a ladder. I must have looked like a madman, sprinting through the trees and waving my stick while shouting in Russian at a wind-propelled hat. It was an expensive hat, Alexey Sergeyevich. I shall have to visit the Jews and buy a replacement. Just this morning I wrote to the Actress and told her that I’m considering taking a different room in the hotel, because there is too much light from the street when I attempt to sleep. I’ve been out all day—it took me forever to find my way back to the hotel once I wandered from the park—and I stopped at a large restaurant a mile or so up the Moldau for supper and a lot of local wine. The food was nothing although the rolls were excellent. I won’t bore you with a critical review of the soup and fish, however. You see how tired I am: I was writing about my rooms here, and drifted off into complaints about a meal. Half an hour ago I returned to the hotel, picked up my key and found no letters at the front desk, and then I came up to my suite. After turning up the gaslight I was overcome by the most peculiar feeling that either the management has in fact put me and my luggage into a different room while I was outside being blown about like a kite, or else every stick of furniture, every wall hanging, every rug and vase, has been shifted in a clockwise direction around the rooms by a few inches. It strikes me as both radically different and obviously unchanged. I might say it’s as if the room itself has set its mind to oppose me in some manner. Yes, this sensation is impossible to describe yet it is nonetheless real. Perhaps they merely came in and polished the floors. Perhaps it’s merely that I drank too much Bohemian wine with supper. It’s nearly one o’clock and I must sleep. There is no light shining through the bedroom window, which is good. Write to me, Alexey Sergeyevich. Remember to suggest stories for Marx, the German.