Author whose work sparked hit movies remembered

Friends recall writer Petr Šabach, whose stories became the basis for some of the best-loved Czech films of recent years and who died at the weekend.

Petr Šabach, photo: CTKPetr Šabach, photo: CTK The Prague-born short-story writer Petr Šabach died on Saturday at the age of 66. However, many Czechs know Šabach not primarily from his books but from the hit movies based on his work that found a place in the national consciousness in recent decades.

Perhaps his best-loved legacy is Pelíšky (Cosy Dens), which offered a bittersweet and very funny portrayal of life under communism.

Jan Hřebejk’s 1999 film was based on short stories gathered in the collection Hovno hoří (Shit Burns), which drew heavily on Šabach’s own life growing up in the Prague 6 district in the 1960s.

In an interview with Czech Radio last year, he discussed his receipt of the Karel Čapek prize, in part for inspiring young readers.

Petr Šabach, Jan Hřebejk, Petr Jarchovský in 2008, photo: CTKPetr Šabach, Jan Hřebejk, Petr Jarchovský in 2008, photo: CTK “If there’s some connection with the young generation… what I have experienced personally is that several times at talks mothers have come up to me and said, You know, it’s interesting – our idiot of a son doesn’t read at all, except for your books. I’ve always said it must be because of the title Shit Burns. But maybe there is something in it.”

Petr Šabach’s stories were also adapted for other Hřebejk films, including Pupendo and the hit early 1990s musical Šakalí léta (Big Beat).

The music for the latter was written by Šabach’s boyhood friend and one-time flatmate Ivan Hlas.

The writer was known for his love of pubs and Hlas said he was just as great a storyteller over a pivo as he was on the page.

'Cosy Dens''Cosy Dens' “His stories made broad-ranging observations and were very human and deep. And they always had a large degree of humour. So I would compare him to Hašek or Hrabal, in the way he looked at people.”

Prague-based humorous writer Steve Fisher was also a friend of Petr Šabach’s. The pair first met when Šabach was so impressed by the American’s magazine columns that he got his publishers Paseka to put them out. Steve Fisher:

“I will remember him as the person to whom I owe becoming a published writer. And I’ll also just remember the way that he so perfectly captured life in this country and the sly, absurd irony of his stories, which I was first introduced to – probably like most people – not as much through his books but through the films that were based on his books, like Pelíšky and Pupendo, which made me laugh out loud.”