Fifty years ago, on 1 May 1965, annual student festivities in Prague to mark the joys of spring culminated in the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg being declared “Král majálesu” – the King of May. A week later, Ginsberg’s visit to Czechoslovakia was cut short when the authorities labelled him an “immoral menace” and put him on a plane to London. But the Czech affection for the writings of the Beat Generation remains to this day. David Vaughan looks at some of the American writers that have captured the Czech imagination in the decades since World
The top Book of the Year prize at the prestigious Magnesia litera awards has just gone to Básník, or Poet, which is subtitled A Novel about Ivan Blatný. The book – which had already picked up other major Czech literary honours – is the magnum opus of Brno-based author Martin Reiner. The day after the prize ceremony in Prague, I asked the writer what had drawn him to Blatný, who spent much of his life in psychiatric care in the UK.
The top Book of the Year prize at the prestigious Magnesia litera Czech literary awards has gone to Básník (Poet), subtitled A Novel about Ivan Blatný, by Martin Reiner. Almost 600 pages long, the book explores the life and work of Blatný, a leading Czech poet who went into exile in the UK and spent his later years in mental institutions. At Tuesday night’s awards ceremony in Prague the closely watched Prose prize went to Petr Stančík for Mlýn na mumie (Mill for Mummies).
Prague’s municipal library is planning to digitise over 220,000 pages of sheet music and books written by Jewish artists in the city at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The institution is carrying out the project with scanners provided by a CZK 8.5 million grant from the European Union. The materials are in danger of being lost as the paper they are printed on is disintegrating. Literature by authors such as Hugo Salus, Otokar Fischer, Franz Werfel and Gustava Meyrink will be saved in this way, as will sheet music by David Popper, Ignaz Moscheles, Julius Schulhoff and Josef Loew.
Tempus Libri is a Czech company specialising in the production of authentic copies or ‘clones’ of rare historic manuscripts, often of immense cultural value. To date, the most significant tome the firm copied is the Vyšehrad Codex, dating back to the Romanesque period. The manuscript, made up of one hundred and eight parchment folios – 26 of which are illuminated – focusses on numerous topics, including the genealogy of Christ. The Codex also depicts the first Czech King Vratislav II and features a reference to St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of
Eight-year-old Ema notices that something is very wrong one day after her father forgets to give her a kiss before going to work. In fact, kisses are disappearing all over and previously happy families begin to fight as a result. That is the opening premise of a new children’s book called Ema a pusinkový lupič, published by Mladá fronta.
American Jeffrey Zamoff has been living in Prague for six years, earning his living as an English teacher and collecting and selling old vinyl records for pleasure. Two years ago, he decided to enlarge his offer with used English books for kids and discovered a hole in the market. His hobby soon turned into a small business, and besides running an internet shop, he has just opened a brick and mortar shop in the city. When I met Jeffrey Zamoff, I asked him how he came up with the idea in the first place:
Comic books and graphic novels are rapidly becoming a popular and recognized form of Czech literature and they build on a tradition that in this country goes back well over a century. Lucie Lomová is one of the foremost representatives of the art form here and her books both for children and adults are hugely popular. A testimony to her talent is the fact that her books have even made an impact in France, the spiritual home of the comic strip. She talks to David Vaughan.
Twelve coffee houses in the Czech Republic will join celebrations of World Poetry Day on Saturday with a special offer: visitors will be able to pay for their coffee with a poem. The pay-with-a-poem initiative, which has now been adopted in over 1,000 coffee houses the world over, aims to bring poetry back into our increasingly hectic and consumerist lives.
People passing by náměstí Míru in Prague these days may have come across a strange pipe-like structure protruding from the ground. Though it looks like it might have been left there by workers, it is in fact the world’s first ever poetry jukebox, the so-called Poesiomat, invented by café owner and idea maker Ondřej Kobza. In this edition of In Focus, Ruth Fraňková went to have a look at it:
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