When Eda Kriseová was barred from journalism after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion she chose an unlikely escape from the grim reality of that time: voluntary work at an isolated mental hospital. She also wrote in samizdat, which led to her gradually becoming part of Czechoslovakia’s anti-Communist dissent. As we will hear, Kriseová – whose husband is filmmaker Josef Platz – found novel ways to resist secret police pressure. But the first part of this two-part interview begins with the author’s early days.
The former political regime in Czechoslovakia deemed much of Western culture “damaging” and “ideologically subversive”, but authorities struggled in particular to control the flood of foreign rock ’n’ roll and pop music. State cultural agencies and censors rarely allowed Western bands to perform here or even play their music on the airwaves. But unofficial channels filled the demand – through illegal imports, home-copying networks and ‘magnetizdat’ – do-it-yourself music. At the same time, state authorities sanctioned Western music when sung by Czech
Dr. Miloš Krajný is one of a number of people who have just received the Gratias Agit, the Czech Foreign Ministry’s award for those who have promoted the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. A highly successful expert on allergies and immunity in his professional life, he has also devoted a lot of energy to advancing Czech music in Canada, the country he has called home since 1968. Dr. Krajný was born in 1941 and when we spoke I first asked what, if any, were his recollections of the war.
Translator, literary scholar and historical sociologist Martin Tharp’s current research focuses on the working-class counterculture of post-1968 Czechoslovakia. He finds that – dissident groups such as Charter 77 aside – the “underground” social movement comprised a diffuse and generalised sentiment of an “emotive-artistic resistance to state cultural control” and censorship.
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday handed out Gratias Agit awards to fifteen Czech expatriates and foreigners for promoting the good name of the Czech Republic abroad. This year’s recipients included Jiří Bělohlávek, the late conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, or speed skater Martina Sáblíková.
When Czechoslovak dissidents produced samizdat literature in the late communist period they did so in large part thanks to the material and financial support of the Charter 77 Foundation. It was run by František Janouch, a Czech émigré who is still mainly based in Sweden. In the second half of a two-part interview with the nuclear scientist, we discussed his relationship with Václav Havel, the Velvet Revolution and the work of the Charter 77 Foundation today. But first I asked Mr. Janouch, now 85, how the organisation had managed to get printers
This year’s George Theiner Prize, which honours people who have helped to promote Czech literature abroad, went to Markéta Goetz-Stankiewicz. At the University of British Columbia she has devoted decades to promoting, translating and writing about modern Czech literature. It was also thanks to Markéta that many Czech playwrights, banned back home, managed to have their work performed on stages in Canada during the 1970s and ‘80s. She has worked just as hard to promote interest in the rich legacy of German writing from what is now the Czech Republic.
One of the recipients of this year’s Gratias Agit Awards, handed out by the Foreign Ministry to those promoting a good name of the Czech Republic abroad, was Milan Kroupa, a Czech born businessman living in Canada. Mr Kroupa left Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and after making his way to Canada, he established his own cleaning company, which is currently offering services in all of the country' provinces. Besides that, Mr Kroupa supports a number of activities by Czech compatriot organisations and is one of the main sponsors of the Czech Studies Funds,
Prague has a long history of inspiring visiting writers. The list includes novelists and poets as diverse as George Eliot, Pablo Neruda and Allen Ginsberg. So it seems apt that the City Library has just launched a programme inviting writers to spend two months absorbing the atmosphere of the city. The first writer-in-residence was the Australian novelist and essayist Liam Pieper and last week, just as his stay was drawing to a close, David Vaughan caught up with Liam and the programme coordinator, Kateřina Bajo.