Wednesday, the 17th of November, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today’s pick is a book I really came across only by chance when browsing online, but otherwise had never heard of–Umberto’s Circus by Eduard Bass. Eduard Bass (1888-1946) was a Czech journalist and writer and also singer, actor, and cabaret director. Goodreads lists 15 books by him, all originally in Czech. I’m not really sure how many of his works have been translated into English.

Umberto’s Circus, first published in 1941 (and from what I can understand, its translation published in 1951), is as its name suggests set around a caravan-drawn circus in late-nineteenth century Europe. The Circus travels across Europe and the Near East for four generations, with the family, performers, trainers and others being united by it. It is described as a book that sits outside politics, wars, strife, jealousy and petty ambitions, and is a story of sympathy, liveliness, humour and humanity. The focus of the story is Vasek, the son of a Czech workman, whose training ends in his proprietorship of the circus and who from his first days is dedicated to the horses, the acrobatics and the animals, and who chooses the circus even over the girl he loves.

Ever since reading Enid Blyton’s stories which were set around circuses (the Galliano’s circus books, and the stories featuring Pip and Susy-Ann) as a child, I have enjoyed reading circus themed books including The Night Circus. (About actual circuses, I’m not so sure any more; I have seen some as a child but lately when I look at performing animals, even when they aren’t being mistreated in any way, I find myself rather uneasy.) This one is of course different from these in that it isn’t children’s fiction, and focuses on a circus and the people associated with it–perhaps giving us a peak into daily life, performances, the ups and downs that changing times bring, and the different people connected with it. The fact that this was a caravan-drawn circus and set as far back as the late-nineteenth century makes me even more interested in reading it. Also the original being in Czech, which I don’t think I’ve ever read any thing read translated from (not even Milan Kundera) is an added bonus.

Have you come across this book or its author before? Have you read anything by him or any other Czech author? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

The book description is from FadedPage, and Kirkus Reviews, and cover image from Goodreads.

Lisa’s pick this week is The Curse Workers Trilogy by Holly Black, a fantasy series about a group of people who can change memories and emotions with just a touch! I’ve enjoyed reading other books by Holly Black before so this should be an interesting one as well.

2 thoughts on “Shelf Control #160: Umberto’s Circus by Eduard Bass

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