In his twenty years as editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber and Faber, Robert McCrum introduced some of the best Czech writers, including Václav Havel, Milan Kundera and Josef Škvorecký, to English speaking readers. This was in the days before the fall of communism and his visits to Czechoslovakia involved a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. A few days ago Robert McCrum returned to the Czech Republic, to see how the country is faring on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Heda Margolius Kovály was a well-known writer and translator who survived the Auschwitz extermination camp and whose first husband, Rudolf Margolius, a deputy minister of foreign trade, was found guilty in the notorious Slánský show trials in what is one of the darkest chapters of in modern Czechoslovak history. In the 1970s, Heda published a memoir which has been in print ever since, but now, a new publication called “Hitler, Stalin and I”, based on four days of interviews with documentary filmmaker Helena Treštíková in 2000 and made into a film
Last year Czechs spent a total of 7.8 billion crowns including VAT on
books, the equivalent of around 305 million euros – a rise of four
percent year-on-year. The estimate was confirmed by the Czech Association
of Booksellers and Publishers in its annual report.
The sales numbers include that of audiobooks and e-books which grew at a faster rate last year than regular books; the sale of audiobooks alone jumped by 37 percent year-on-year.
Bianca Bellová this year won the top Czech literary award Litera Magnesia for her novel Jezero (The Lake), an honour that was soon followed by a European Union Prize for Literature. The first stop on our tour of “Bianca Bellová’s Prague” is the suburb of Radlice. The writer lived in the district until the age of 10, when the original Radlice village was razed to make way for Metro construction.
‘The Fire Next Time’ is the main theme of this years’ annual Prague Writers’ Festival, which gets underway in the Czech capital on Friday. The event, which is being held for the 27th time, brings together prominent writers and thinkers from around the world. One of the biggest guests this year is the Syrian poet Adonis, a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
For two weeks from November 12 the Czech Republic will be indulging in a feast of poetry with the 19th annual “Den poezie” poetry festival. It will include a wide variety of events, nearly two hundred in total, in sixty towns and villages across the country, and even if you do not speak Czech, you will not be left empty-handed. David Vaughan talks to the festival’s co-founder and co-organiser, Bernie Higgins.
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by the Czech-born writer Milan Kundera has been published for the first time in the Czech Republic. It was the author’s last novel written in Czech that had not been available in his homeland before now. The only edition ever released in Czech previously was in 1981 by the exile publishing house Sixty-Eight Publishers.
Martina Formanová, the wife of the famous Czech director Miloš Forman, was recently in Prague to launch an audio version of her novel, called Případ Pavlína, or Case Pavlína. The book, which was released a few years ago, tells the story of the Czech-born 1980’s super model Pavlína Pořízková and her family’s dramatic escape from Communist Czechoslovakia.