With over a quarter of a million followers, Jiří Šiftař must be one of the most popular Czechs on Instagram. Going by the name Jeera on the photograph sharing service, he is mainly known for stunning pictures of his adopted home of London. Jiří Šiftař and I met at a restaurant in the city near his workplace at Lloyd’s bank, where he designs web interfaces for customers. I first asked him whether he had been into photography as a child.
Franz Fühmann (1922-1984) was one of East Germany’s most widely read writers. He is also one of few that have stood the test of time. He grew up in Czechoslovakia in Rokytnice nad Jizerou, a small town in the mountains close to what was then the border between Czechoslovakia and Germany. This provided the setting for several of his stories, drawing from his pre-war memories of the Sudetenland. They form part of his 1962 collection The Jew Car which is now available in English, published by Seagull Books and translated by Isabel Cole. David Vaughan
Iranian cinema has been among the most critically acclaimed in the world in recent years. Czech audiences have been able to enjoy the cream of the country’s movies thanks to the Festival of Iranian Film, or ÍRÁN:CI, which is taking place for the seventh time in Prague. Ahead of Tuesday night’s opening ceremony I spoke to festival founder Kaveh Daneshmand, who explained the theme of the latest edition: Don’t be scared.
The documentary Children Online shines a highly revealing light on how the lives of kids in the Czech Republic are increasingly shaped, if not dominated, by the internet. The film shows that for today’s generation YouTube videos have largely supplanted television, to be offline is to be an outsider and cyber-grooming is a genuine threat. I discussed Children Online, which has been screened at 20 festivals, with its director, Kateřina Hager. My first question: What had drawn her to the subject to begin with?
At the end of 2015 the Australian novelist and essayist Liam Pieper was Prague’s first writer-in-residence through the UNESCO City of Literature programme. His two months in Prague bore fruit. Last year Liam’s powerful and disturbing novel, The Toymaker, was published by Penguin Australia to critical acclaim. It has since been translated into several languages, including Czech. Set in Auschwitz, wartime Prague and Krakow, and contemporary Melbourne, The Toymaker grapples with the legacy of the Holocaust and reminds us of the dangers of keeping silent
Jan Šesták was a music-obsessed mega-fan of Radio Luxembourg, tuning in every evening, despite the risks, in communist Czechoslovakia. Tony Prince was a top DJ on the Europe-wide station, which regularly reached tens of millions of listeners. This is the story of how the two met when Prince performed in Šesták’s native Brno on a 1970 tour, starting a friendship that continues to this day. It is also a story about the power of radio.
Czechoslovakia gained independence in 1918. But even now, after nearly a century you can find customs and traditions that are very similar to most countries that formed the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire. What Czechia shares with Austria and especially Vienna, is the tradition of classical dance classes that are still considered something of a “rite of passage” in both neighboring countries.
One of the staples of Czech Christmas, along with fried carp, Christmas cookies and fairy tales, is Jakub Jan Ryba’s Christmas Mass. The mass composed by a small-town teacher in 1796 has become the most popular piece of Czech Christmas music ever written. It is performed in churches, concert halls and resounds in millions of Czech homes during the Christmas season. So on Christmas Eve, we would like to share this musical experience with you and have selected a 1998 recording that has been hailed as the best recording of the Czech Christmas Mass