This is Edinburgh
This is Edinburgh was one of Sasek's three favourite titles (along with This is Venice and This is Hong Kong). As Sasek focuses on the small details like shops and individual streets, he seems to have picked things that have endured. It is a very Scottish book that captures the essence of Edinburgh as it still is today.
Sasek on This is Edinburgh
I loved working on This is Edinburgh, though I hated the weather there. In the middle of summer, it was cold and rainy. You needed a hot-water bottle in bed with you. Working conditions were good though because the nights are very short in Edinburgh. I worked from 4:00 a.m. to midnight and finished the book in two months.
Miroslav Sasek in Books are by people.
What the critics said about This is Edinburgh
Text from Karl Miller, M. Sasek, New Statesman, Vol. lxi, No. 1573, May 5, 1961, p.724.
M. Sasek has been going about the world drawing the great cities, drawing in each case, quite candidly, the things that the tourist might see or be shown...Edinburgh is a good subject, for it is a peculiarly civic city ('civic' is their favourite word), milling with monuments, its history is much commemorated and has a way of swallowing up the present situation; it certainly does so in the many books about the place, all of which somehow or other have a stoutly antiquarian air.
Sasek's drawings run to caricature, but their observation of Edinburgh is accurate and acute, though it's an Edinburgh shorn unaccountably of its New Town. The wind and weather, the stone (both sorts of Edinburgh rock are included) of turret and tenement, are commemorated in a sheaf of wry and amiable pictures which have all the right greys and angularities. The sketch of Jenners Store, flanked by one of the Princes Street's abundant commissionaires, is a piece of architectural satire not unworthy of the doyens, [Saul] Steinberg and [Osbert] Lancaster. He is not afraid to follow out his jokes and fantasies: the tartan tripes of the bagpipes are hung about his pages to great effect.
Those who know and love the cities for which M. Sasek has made his huge picture-book guides, with the brief, amusing and perceptive captions, enjoy them enormously and those who hope to visit them some day cannot help but find them alluring. In each his keen perceptive eye caught not only the precise look of buildings, squares, monuments and people of all kinds, but the mood of various parts of these cities. Now he gives us Edinburgh...He does not mention "Auld Reekie" at all. In fact his visit must have been a sunny one for he sees color everywhere in the grey capital of the north, in the flower clock on Princes Street, in the tartans (not pictured in quite the true colors in the text), in the brighter streets and gayly painted mews, and in school uniforms. His views of buildings are wonderful, architecturally precise yet softened to make interesting compositions and everyone surely will delight in his fine watercolors of the castle from Princes Street. We were surprised not to see the exquisitely harmonious Charlotte Square and some other of our favorite spots, but there is a limit to the number of these fine pictures, and we would not drop any of them...Text from Attractive and interesting new series, in Lively Arts and Book Review, May 14, 1961, p.30
City portraits, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3090, May 19, 1961, p. xviii.
It would be inaccurate to say that M. Sasek is in a groove. He has, rather, devised a most satisfactory formula and applies it with great skill, understanding and integrity. Thus, although all his studies of great cities are, at a superficial glance, alike, each is true both to the genius loci and to the artist's personal vision. If this seems too sober an approach to what are admittedly very funny books, it should be noted that M. Sasek's fun always has serious edge to it.
He has found much to love in Auld Reekie, particularly the incongruities, social and architectural. There is some very lovely drawing, particularly of the Edinburgh skyline, a sharply humorous enjoyment of folly, and an occasional neatness of phrase. Yet This is Edinburgh, for all its excellences, does not quite add up to a portrait of a city; rather a number of quick sketches in preparation for a portrait.
Miroslav Sasek has an eye that captures the underlying pattern of scenes, a sense of humor that adds originality, a publisher who preserves the just-painted freshness of his remarkably wide color range. He sows some history, what a sgian dubh is, and brings such an atmosphere that it is easy to hear the squeal of bagpipes and the soft burr of Scots voices.
Text from Widening horizons for children: This is Edinburgh, The Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1961, p. 11.
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