Václav Havel has been the subject of many books and quite a few have been devoted to the so-called Czechoslovak underground, the cultural movement which above all in music but also through literature and art ignored the desires and instructions of the ruling communist party. But while the link between the two has often been made, a new book bluntly argues that without the support of the underground, dissident leader Havel would have been nowhere in creating a coherent opposition.
The Czech Centre in London has in recent years devoted a lot of its energies to bringing cutting edge Czech art and design to the UK capital. Now it’s able to do so on its own premises, after relocating to the same building as the country’s embassy and other institutions in the Notting Hill district. I recently stopped by to discuss the Czech Centre’s new location, and some of its projects, with director Tereza Porybná.
Prisons and prisoners’ letters under the Communist era ‘Normalisation’ of the 1970s and 1980s is the subject of this edition of Czech History. For the political prisoners that resulted from the Communist crackdown following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, those letters were a vital link with the outside world, not just to family and friends but also their supporters worldwide.
A plaque to the late poet Ivan Martin Jirous is set to be unveiled in his hometown of Humpolec in the Vysočina region on Saturday. A leading figure in the cultural underground and signatory of the Charter 77 protest document, Jirous spent a total of more than eight years in communist prisons. The unveiling of the plaque will represent the climax of a festival entitled Magor’s September, in reference to his nickname magor, which means madman.
Last week, Prague hosted a conference devoted to Ivan Martin Jirous, one of the legends of the Czechoslovak underground of the 70s and 80s, who died in November 2011. The poet, better known as Magor, which means “loony” in English, was familiar to many as the artistic director of the Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe and as the wild man of the underground scene, but over the years his output as a poet has won ever growing acclaim. Much of his best poetry was written during the eight-and-a-half years he spent in communist jails,
A footbridge by the train station in Plzeň has been named after Ivan Martin Jirous, a Czech poet and key underground figure who died last year. The honour was the initiative of three civic groups in the West Bohemian city. It will actually be named the Ivan Magor Jirous Bridge, in reference to the late writer and hell raiser’s nickname (Magor means madman).
Czech parents may well be relieved to know that, if the latest studies are anything to go by, their children are still keen readers. And what are they reading? Well, how about Psycho for Kids and Baby Punk…? Such is the rich new world of Czech children’s writing and publishing, post-1989. It’s a world where poetry, music and visual art have come to overlap with some surprising results. In reaction to four decades of censorship, just about anything goes and there is little nostalgia for the old days. The journalist Kateřina Kadlecová has taken a
Any history of Czechoslovakia’s dissident movement in the 1970s will include more than a passing reference to the writer, editor and translator Paul Wilson. Originally from Canada, he came to the country in 1967, then in his twenties, and he was to stay for ten years, eventually being expelled in 1977 for associating with dissidents and the underground music scene. Paul Wilson was back in Prague last month for the launch of a collection of his essays about this country over the last three decades. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Last month was the end of an era in Czech poetry. The man who practically embodied the poetic underground of the 1970s and 80s, Ivan Martin Jirous – alias Magor, or Loony in English – died at the age of 67. Not only was Magor one of best Czech poets of his generation, but also the driving force behind the underground rock scene. He embodied the longing for rebellion and freedom, as so-called “normalization” sucked the air out of Czech and Slovak society. In Czech Books, David Vaughan talks to one of Magor’s close friends and associates.
Hundreds of people – among them musicians and government officials – gathered in the South Bohemian village of Kostelní Vydří on Saturday to pay their last respects to dissident poet Ivan Martin Jirous, who died last week. A prayer was read by Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Defense Minister and former dissident Alexandr Vondra, also in attendance, called Jirous a very important person without whom a tough period would have been even tougher. Ivan Jirous (nicknamed Magor, or ‘Maniac’) is perhaps best-known as the artistic manager and spiritual leader of the underground rock band The Plastic People of the Universe. His battles with the communist regime resulted in eight and a half years behind bars. He was 67 years old.