29-05-2005

This week in Mailbox we talk about the differences between a transcript of a radio report and a newspaper article and we read from an e-mail from Michael Pober, Czech Republic. Also in Mailbox: only two weeks remain until the deadline of Radio Prague's annual listeners' competition.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Thank you very much for all the letters and e-mails that you keep sending in to Radio Prague and we are here now to answer your questions and comments. Let's begin with this long e-mail from Michael Pober, who lives in the Czech Republic. He responds to an April edition of Radio Prague's feature Panorama, which talked about the famous Italian-born libertine, Giacomo Casanova, who died at the castle of Duchcov in North Bohemia.

"I read the feature about Casanova at Duchcov with considerable disappointment. Your correspondent both trivialised Casanova and clearly had not done his homework. He doesn't, for example cite any authority or information source other than the Castle Guide. Nor does it seem as if he took any time to explore Casanova's writings or he could not have made the gross understatement that his lovers included 'at least one nun' as well as omitting to provide any impression of the flavour of Casanova's sexual adventures. The information about Casanova's esoteric interests is equally skimpy and ill-formed.

"It would have been more interesting if your writer had managed to discover that the former Duchcov library contained arguably the best collection of Alchemical Works in the Czech Lands and that Casanova's friends included the mysterious Comte de St Germain, and his colleague at the Library, another well-known esotericist, Baron Linden. This is rather more juicy matter than that Casanova didn't like Czech food and that he received little respect from the natives - sadly the same is probably still true for most of today's millions of contemporary Italian tourists in Prague; hardly newsworthy."

Duchcov, photo: Archive of Radio PragueDuchcov, photo: Archive of Radio Prague This letter addresses a very important issue which we should stress more often - and that is that what you read on our website are transcripts of radio reports and not newspaper articles. I asked Radio Prague's Brian Kenety, who recorded the Casanova feature in situ, at Duchcov Castle, to explain what the difference implies.

"As this is Radio Prague, I aimed at giving an idea of how Casanova spent his time in the Czech lands, not to give an exhaustive profile of the man from Venice and his works or his many lovers. These facts are well known.

"Far fewer people know that he was a lonely librarian in Bohemia in the latter part of his life. When preparing such a radio report, the goal is to make the listener feel as if he or she is actually there (in Casanova's chambers in Duchcov, in this case), which is why using a guide from the chateau was, in fact, a very appropriate device. Those who listened to the report were treated to the sounds of birds chirping, floorboards creaking, skeleton keys jangling, and the sound of the doors Casanova himself used to pass through swinging open, and so on.

"Period music, including the opera Don Giovanni, that Casanova is said to have had a hand in played under the text. It is a richer experience than simply reading it.

"What the reader is critiquing was, more or less, the transcript of a radio report: notice that I say "reader" and not "listener". A report written for print - be in on the life of Casanova or on any subject - is approached very differently than is one written for radio. We have to write around the sounds at our disposal, to a large degree. We then adapt the text for the internet but generally don't have the time to write a classic print article.

"A theatre critic wouldn't pass judgment on a play based solely on the reading of a script that was missing the stage directions, would he?. We likewise encourage "readers" to become "listeners" and get the most of our radio reports."

Thanks a lot, Brian, for that exhaustive explanation of why our reports on the Radio Prague website read the way they do.

 

Anyway, from 18th-century Duchcov Castle, let's now go almost a century back in search of our mystery man in this month's listeners' competition on Radio Prague.

"He is a Czech-born printmaker and engraver. He was born in 1607 in Prague, where he also spent his youth. Along with other Czechs of Protestant belief he left Bohemia following 1620 and moved to Germany. He finally settled in England where he also died in 1677. After the restoration of the Stuarts he became a painter at the royal court of Charles II. His engravings can be seen in the National Gallery in London, in Prague and in many other galleries all over the world. Among his works are also many views of Prague."

You have two more days to send us the answer to Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, Czech Republic or English@radio.cz.

But you still have two more weeks to take part in Radio Prague's annual listeners' competition.

To enter this year, just send us a few lines on the following subject:

"What Czech beer means to me."

The winner will receive a week's stay for two in the Czech Republic and there are other attractive prizes for the runners-up.

The winning entry will be read on all six Radio Prague's different language broadcasts, in the original and in translations.

The winner and a partner will be accommodated in family style in the heart of Prague, at the Hotel Falkensteiner Maria Prag, while your flight will be courtesy of Czech Airlines - your travel partner to the Czech Republic.

Your entries should reach us by June 15th at the following address:

Radio Prague, Vinohradska 12, 12099, Prague 2, Czech Republic, or you can use our e-mail address cr@radio.cz.

29-05-2005