It’s time for 'Time of Changes'

A Quick Update On My Book

Chapter 1: A Spring Break in Bulgaria. The book opens with a spring-break trip that I and three friends took from Luxembourg to Bulgaria in the early 1980s. This is Sheila and Doug on the shores of the Black Sea in "Sunny Beach," Bulgaria. Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 2: The Case of the Missing Roommate. This is the main square in Kraków, as it looked in August 1984. This chapter tells the story of how I met up with my college roommate in Poland and then totally lost track of him when the two of us finally got to Prague. Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 3: My Czech Friend ‘Arno’. During the mid- and late-1980s, I was a reporter/editor/suspected spy for Business International in Vienna and a regular passenger on the train from Vienna to Prague. This is Prague's main train station in the late-1980s. Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 4: Room Service at the Intercontinental. All about the spooky goings-on at Prague's premier business address in the 1980s. Photo credit: Mark Baker.

The title of the book is “Čas proměn,” which translates (from Czech) into English as “Time of Changes” or “Time of Transformation.” The book covers the period from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, when Czechoslovakia and the rest of the former Eastern bloc underwent a historic transformation from communism and centrally planned economies to liberal democracies and market-based capitalism. The period also corresponds to my own personal interaction with Central and Eastern Europe. I first visited the region in 1982 as a student on a spring-break road trip from Luxembourg to Bulgaria. I later worked in Vienna as a journalist and reported on the former Eastern bloc for Business International and The Economist Group. I moved to Prague in 1991 and worked as an editor for the newly established “Prague Post” newspaper and then as a co-owner of The Globe Bookstore & Coffeehouse.

"Čas proměn," in a sense, is a memoir. In each of the 12 chapters, I focus on a particular year and share stories and impressions from my own life at that time. As the book will be published in Czech (and aimed primarily at Czech and Slovak readers), though, I also try to shape the narrative in such a way as to keep the stories relevant to the interests of readers. Each chapter is grounded in events taking place at the time in Czechoslovakia and the rest of the region. My primary aim with the book is to entertain and amuse. On a deeper level, though, I hope to present a fresh account of a period that will feel familiar to readers, but which may seem different when told from the perspective of a relative outsider. In this case, that outsider is me.

Chapter 5: Singing Moravian Folk Songs. Impressions of Brno from a month-long summer language school program in 1988. That's me on the left (tongue hanging out), standing with the other native-English-speakers on the course. Photo credit: Katrin Bock.
Chapter 6: The Year That Changed Everything. Memories of 1989, when few believed that communism would fall until they saw it with their own eyes. This is from a trip to Berlin that I took a few days after the wall fell in early-November 1989. Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 7: The Two Václavs. The year 1990 was much more precarious than most of us remember. Thoughts on that pivotal year, when Czechoslovakia appeared to have two competent men in charge, both with the same first name. Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 8: My Weekend with the Miners. Recollections of rocky weekend break in Bucharest in June 1990, when the miners unexpectedly appeared on the streets and started bashing in a few heads. Photo credit: Andrei Iliescu.

The book began as an outgrowth of this blog, and serves as a reminder to fellow bloggers (and anyone else thinking of starting a blog) that you never know where these things will lead. When I first started this website in 2017, I had no plans whatsoever to write a book. I simply wanted a platform to publish stories for which I didn’t think I could find a commercial outlet. I was very surprised in November 2019 to receive the following email, out of the blue, from an editor at a leading Czech publisher, Albatros Media:

Dear Mr. Baker,

My name is Jan xxx and I work as an editor in the CPress publishing house (which is part of Albatros Media). I saw your website and read the article “Vzpomínky na rok 1989.” I thought I would contact you and ask if you might be interested in writing about your experiences in Czechoslovakia a little bit more. I would like to ask directly: Have you ever considered writing a book (memoir) on this topic for Czech readers? It could be a great complement to the history of this period.

With kind regards,  Jan

That email kicked off a process that lasted over a year of going through old notes, letters, and diaries; reaching out to old friends for their own memories; sifting through hundreds of old photos; and finally drafting the outline and writing up the chapters. I wrote the original manuscript in English. It was then translated into Czech by a helpful and encouraging translator, Eva K. As I mentioned above, there are several stages to go before the book is published. My editor must now read through and suggest changes to the Czech version. If all goes according to plan, "Čas proměn" will appear in Czech and Slovak bookshops (if bookshops are open by then) sometime later this year.

Chapter 9: A New Guidebook for Czechoslovakia. In 1991, my girlfriend received an offer from Fodor's to write one of the first English-language travel guides on Czechoslovakia to appear in decades. This chapter tells the story of our eye-opening trip. Can anyone guess this building? Photo credit: Mark Baker.
Chapter 10: A Year at The Prague Post. I moved to Prague in June 1991 and promptly started work as the business editor of the newly founded Prague Post. My 12 months at the paper, from October '91, coincided with one of the country's most-turbulent years ever. Photo credit: Antonín Nový.
Chapter 11: The ‘Left Bank of the ‘90s’. All about the crazy expat invasion of Prague that started in 1992 and ran through much of the rest of the decade. This cartoon sums up that strange, yet influential influx pretty well. Credit: Ken Nash from 'Prague on 13 Beers a Day'.
Chapter 12: When ‘The Globe’ Came to Prague. The book ends in 1994, when I left Prague to return to the United States. In this last chapter, I share stories about The Globe Bookstore & Coffeehouse. This photo shows our opening night party in July 1993. Photo credit: Mark Baker.

To English-language readers, I haven’t yet decided what to do with the English manuscript. I would love to find a British or American publisher or publishing outlet for it (please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions). I think the stories could find an English audience, but the chapters would likely have to be re-worked to give the characters and stories relevance to readers who didn’t experience the events first-hand.

Going forward, I will post updates here to the blog to let readers know when to expect publication. I will also post to Twitter if I hear of anything worth sharing. If you would like to see  old photos and artwork that we will include with the book, I’ve started a dedicated Instagram account. Find it at: Cas_Promen.

Comments

  1. Mark:
    Looks Great! Wow glad you used the pandemic year to be so productive.
    I struggled just to declutter and weed out papers and stay healthy!
    I think there would be an audience in America – nostalgic for those pre- cell phone days.
    Connie

  2. Hope you have it published in English, such a great city and history.Been reading this great blog since my first visit in Praque in 2017.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


two + 8 =

Photo of Mark Baker
About the author

Mark Baker

I’m an independent journalist and travel writer who’s lived in Central Europe for more than two decades. I love the history, literature, culture, and mystery of this often-overlooked corner of Europe, and I make my living writing articles and guidebooks about the region. Much of what I write eventually finds its way into commercial print or digital outlets, but a lot of it does not.

That's my aim with this travel website: to find a space for stories and experiences that fall outside the publishing mainstream.

You’ll find a mix of stories here. Some will be familiar “what to see and do” travel articles on particular destinations. Others will be tales of “adventure” (usually with a comic twist) from life on the road. I'll also share tips about living in my adopted hometown of Prague and stories from a more-distant (but seemingly ever-present) past, when Central Europe was the “Eastern bloc” and I was a full-time journalist trying my best to cover it. I hope you enjoy.

Tales of Travel & Adventure in Central Europe
Mark Baker