A festival of public readings by writers on trains to promote Czech
literature kicked off early on Monday as Czechs boarded trains on their way
The event is supported by close to 30 Czech authors who have agreed to read selected parts of their work to the public. The festival will last until Thursday.
One of the novelties this year is public readings of micro-stories by students on the Petřín funicular in Prague, where the ride lasts just five minutes.
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
Richard Askwith is a well-known writer and journalist, but perhaps more than anything else he is a runner. In his native Britain he won a cult following with his book Feet in the Clouds, which maps his obsession with the strange and exhilarating sport of fell-running. His hobby left him well placed for writing a biography of the greatest of all Czech runners, Emil Zátopek, legendary for his will-power and endurance. Richard Askwith was in Prague recently to launch the Czech translation of the book, Today We Die a Little: Emil Zátopek, Olympic Legend
David Lawson had never heard of Ostrava when, fifteen years ago, his London synagogue received a Sefer Torah that had belonged to a once vibrant community in that industrial city. Now, it’s fair to say, he is an expert on both the history of Ostrava and the key role Jews played in its development over centuries. I asked Mr. Lawson, co-author of the new book “Ostrava and its Jews: Now no-one sings you lullabies”, how it all came about.
David Short first came to Prague as a student over fifty years ago. He remained for the best part of six years, experiencing at first hand the Prague Spring and then the Soviet-led invasion. He went on to become a mainstay of Czech and Slovak studies in Britain, over nearly four decades giving students at the University of London insights into the quirks of the Czech and Slovak languages. Since his retirement and with a bit more time on his hands David has focused on his work as a literary translator. It was in acknowledgement of his huge contribution
In the last edition of Czech Books we featured an interview with Zuzana Justman, who with her older brother and mother survived the wartime Terezín ghetto. Her brother Jiří Robert Pick later wrote a remarkable novel set in the ghetto, under the title “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The book draws richly from his own memories; with an unexpected lightness and humour it tells the story of a teenage boy and the people around him – his friends and the older men sharing a ward with him in the ghetto infirmary. Thanks to Zuzana Justman
“Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” is a remarkable book by many standards. It is a comic novel set in the wartime Jewish ghetto in Terezín, written by the Czech satirist Jiří Robert Pick some twenty years after he survived the ghetto. The book is a classic, sparkling with life and humour, in defiance of the dehumanizing environment in which it was written. Thanks to J. R. Pick’s sister, the award-winning documentary film-maker Zuzana Justman, the book has just been published in English translation. In a two-part special, Zuzana talks
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