I moved from the States to then Czechoslovakia in 1992, unaware of the country’s history of, well, ‘antipathy’ to all things brown and Muslims in particular*. I meet clients these days at the high-flying City Tower office building on Fridays: one big bank, lots of silk-stocking law offices, lobbyists and the lot. In my case, a legal translator and a couple of said lawyers. On the elevator down after, three suits are laughing about the Arabs in Gaza they’d seen on the TV in the waiting room of whatever den of corruption they’d been visiting. I considered, took a five-second count to consider the risk and opted to offer a neutrally-toned question: ‘And the Israeli reaction?’ The guy smiled knowingly, took the Rambo pose, air-guitared the firing of a machine gun, and all three suits burst out laughing.
Sometimes here I feel like I am stuck in Hell.
*A friend was restituted a Baroque Dientzenhofer mill back in the 90s. I spent a weekend there. The family crest above the entrance features three be-fezzed and decapitated Turkish heads in its capital.