by Colin Insole
Publication Date: December 2011
Details about the book: sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on deluxe heavy paper, cloth boards, gold and silver folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece.
It is the late 1980's. Two young people are drawn together at a London registry office, where the walls are hung with the prints and animal paintings of Albrecht Durer. Vlastimil Lednacek comes to erase all association with his dying father's nostalgia for the Prague he never knew by assuming an English name. Alice, remembering nothing of her parents and brought up by the kindly Exiles of St John, seeks in vain for her past.
Their meeting leads to marriage.
Vlastimil's father dies on the eve of the Velvet Revolution and his son burns his books, photographs and letters. However, Alice has been given the Tarot of Bohemia, created in the aftermath of the Battle of the White Mountain. Its major arcana differ from the traditional pack and their images fade and change with the passing years.
Three months pass and a letter draws them to Prague.The city's new found freedom is precarious and depends on the discovery and safe-keeping of an object, long hidden from the country's oppressors.
In a city, where the present, the nineteenth century and the mythic blend and shift, the pair quarrel and separate. They encounter The Room of Tongues, housing forbidding masks which induce false confessions, a ruined burlesque theatre of maimed curiosities, whose distorting mirrors mimic the audience and the Room of the Solitudes, inhabited by momentos and memories of the lost.
Always, they are drawn to the River Vltava and its wildlife, where the statues on the Stone Bridge are sentient and ambivalent, and the Dreamer from the Tarot of Bohemia, collects mud and beeswax to mould in secret.
It is a city of shadow where the Funeral Brethren linger over the runes and the heady smell of rank elder flowers in the Jewish Cemetery.
And in the Room of Tongues, the Hangman waits, singing the old prison song 'Go Softly into the Darkness' where a Tarot reading will decide the fate of the city.
Colin Insole is a writer and part-time lecturer who lives in Lymington on the South coast of England. Oblivion's Poppy, his debut published last year by Passport Levant, is one of the most celebrated and respected pieces of fantastic Literature released in recent memory.
Alcyone is a full-colour sewn hardcover book of 92 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece.
Collector's edition limited to only 107 hand numbered copies.
Other Ex Occidente Titles by Colin Insole
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