I use the Web to help me find great books and then to bring them alive while I’m reading.
Simon Mawer’s “The Glass Room”
I can’t remember exactly how I found out about Simon Mawer’s “The Glass Room”. It was a finalist for the 2009 Booker Award; however, recently it reappeared on the bestseller and editor’s choice lists, that I get from Amazon and the New York Times, email newsletters.
The story is about the lives of the fictional family of Liesel and Viktor Landauer, a successful Jewish industrialist, who commissioned the villa. These characters are directly based on a real family, Greta and Fritz Tugendhat, also Jewish.
I don’t want to spoil the story with details but put together Czech, Jewish and the 1930s and you have part of the plot. But this is not a Holocaust story.
Mawer’s central character is the house, from commission to today’s museum.
This real house, in the Czech city of Brno, is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1929 masterpiece of modern architecture and design, the Villa Tugendhat, which is now on the UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage.
The Villa Tugendhat is now a museum, with the most wonderful website that actually gives you a virtual tour of the house. I took this tour many times while I was reading the book.
Right click on this address, NOT the picture.
I really like this YouTube presentation. It not only magnificently presents the beauty of the villa and its furnishing but also portrays the thoughts of the family. Notice that the furniture, which now are copies of the original, look very familiar.
Be sure to enlarge the picture by clicking on the low right hand figure.
Czech History and Simon Mawer
Another character in the book is Czech history, especially the period between the Wars, and its rich culture from which the book grew.
I found an interview of the author Simon Mawer discussing on Radio Prague the book and its background.
Another find is a radio interview with, Dr. Anna Grmelová, professor of English Literature at Prague’s Charles University, about the book’s depiction of the rich and diverse cultural life of the First Czechoslovak Republic. The interview helped me understand the Moravian culture, which is so much a part of the book.
If you want to learn more just search using Simon Mawer The Glass Room or Villa Tugendhat.
The book is available in print or by e-book.