May 16, 1983 12:00 PM

photographs by Manfred Hamm

The closest that many Americans ever get to the coffeehouse tradition is Dunkin’ Donuts, and whatever their other sublime qualities, Munchkins are not conducive to profound conversation or contemplation. More’s the pity. Hungarian-born journalist George Mikes’ introduction to this evocative book suggests that even in Europe, coffeehouses are dying out. Hamm, a West Berlin-based photographer, has captured the tone of many of the more famous establishments, such as Rome’s Cafe Greco, which was patronized by, among others, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Stendhal, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Thackeray, Twain and Bizet—not your casual lunchtime chatterers. Writes Mikes, “Hatred of fresh air, all sports and exercise was an almost universal trait in all true coffeehouse goers.” This book is a useful companion for those who occasionally wish they had been born in another time and place. (Thames and Hudson, $29.95)

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