Alina was, as noted, on Pařížská (Paris avenue). Heeding the unknown voice, she started walking clockwise; she did not hesitate as to what this means since, conveniently, she was standing right next to a clock:
Luca was standing on the other side of the block. He too saw a clock:
Pařížská was built in the late nineteenth century, as Prague’s answer to the Paris Champs-Élysées; it cut through Josefov, the old Prague ghetto. Most of the old Josefov was destroyed at the time; among the buildings that survived were six synagogues, the famous cemetery, and the “Jewish Town Hall”. This last building had been reconstructed in the 18th century with a fancy clock using Hebrew letters and, as an homage to the right-to-left reading of Hebrew script, running in the opposite of the direction of ordinary clocks. The clock figures in Guillaume Apollinaire’s Alcools:
Tu ressembles au Lazare affolé par le jour
Les aiguilles de l’horloge du quartier juif vont à rebours
Et tu recules aussi dans ta vie lentement
En montant au Hradchin et le soir en écoutant
Dans les tavernes chanter des chansons tchèques
- (You look like Lazarus scared by daylight
The hands of the Jewish quarter clock go backwards
And you too step back slowly through your life
As you walk up to the Hradčany and in the evening
Listen to Czech songs sung in taverns)
Luca started walking clockwise, according to the clock next to him; you know the rest.
Normal clocks all go the same way; the backwards clock is no more than a wink and a whim. Had Luca raised his eyes more:
he would have gone by one of the other, ordinary clocks, going in the same direction as Alina; and we would not have a story.