Though forced to live in exile for most of his life, the world-renowned pianist Rudolf Firkušný maintained strong Czech traditions at his home in the United States. Indeed, his daughter Véronique Firkusny’s mother tongue was Czech and today she translates leading authors from her parents’ homeland and helps opera singers get to grips with Czech-language works. When we spoke in New York, I first asked Véronique Firkusny how her father had viewed the situation in his native country following the Communist takeover of 1948.
Czechs are marking twenty years since the death of Jaroslav Foglar, youth movement activist and author of the legendary comics Rapid Arrows. Among the events remembering the famous writer is a performance of his novel Mystery of the Puzzle Box at Prague’s Minor theatre, which has been sold out for weeks. Meanwhile, the Scout Foundation of Jaroslav Foglar, which is in charge of his heritage, is releasing a special, limited edition of his autobiography.
When the novel The Glass Room by the British writer Simon Mawer was published in 2009 it was an instant hit, and it was no surprise when it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The book was widely discussed in the Czech Republic as it revolves around the story of one this country’s most remarkable twentieth century buildings, the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. This was not Simon Mawer’s first novel set in the city. Over a decade earlier he wrote Mendel’s Dwarf, which took its inspiration from Gregor Mendel, one of the fathers of genetics and the
The Czech Republic has a long tradition of horse racing and the most celebrated race of all is the Great Pardubice, or Velká pardubická. This is Europe’s most challenging steeplechase and is being run this weekend. There are many stories surrounding the race, but perhaps the most interesting – and certainly one of the least known – is that of the only woman to win the steeplechase. Her name was Lata Brandisová, and she won way back in 1937. Her remarkable story is the subject of a book, currently being written by the British journalist, Richard
Prague-born novelist, travel writer and journalist/blogger Iva Pekárková has lived abroad for the better part of twenty-five years, having first defected to Austria in 1985 and then settled in New York before eventually putting down roots in London after stints back home in the Czech Republic, and extensive travels in Asia and Africa. In town for the Prague Writer’s Festival, we spoke about the influence of movement on her early work – from hitchhiking under communism and driving taxis ‘on both sides of the road’ – and her latest book, about a
Novelist and essayist Mark Slouka, a guest author at the ongoing Prague Writers’ Festival, was born in New York to Czech refugees who never should have married but stayed together for nearly half a century. For a time, their chaotic lives, often distorted to tell a greater truth, provided rich fodder for his fiction. When both were gone – his father dead, his long-estranged mother suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s – he found the courage to search for the true story behind her “descent into madness”. The Czech version of the resulting memoir,
Welsh writer John Bills currently resides in Prague, but his fondness for Central and Eastern Europe stretches beyond the borders of the Czech Republic. So far beyond, in fact, that he’s written a 600-page book dedicated to history’s greatest Slavs, wryly titled An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery.
British author Nigel Peace has just published a powerful love story set against the background of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact. The novel is based on the author’s own personal experience of being torn apart from his first love by the communist regime. I spoke to Nigel Peace shortly before his new book came out, about his memories of the time and what made him write his soul-searching novel half a century later.
Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt, a speaker at the Melting Pot forum at this year’s eclectic Colours of Ostrava festival, wrote his first horror novel when still in his teens. His critically acclaimed horror novel "Hex", a bestseller in the Netherlands since translated into 26 languages, including Czech, is now being developed into a TV series. I caught up with the author at a book signing in Prague – his last stop on a world tour – and began by asking him how he came to be invited to the Ostrava forum.
In 1902 the 26-year-old Rainer Maria Rilke went to Paris to write a monograph of the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. By that time Rodin was in his early 60s and was already recognized as one of the great artists of his time. The highly sensitive young poet who had spent his childhood in Prague was convinced that Rodin could help him to understand how to live and work as an artist. Their brief but intense relationship is the subject of “You Must Change Your Life”, a lively portrait of the two men at during those years. Its author, the American art