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
Most Czechs know the story of the Pied Piper through a writer called Viktor Dyk. His short novel of the same name – Krysař in Czech – is a Czech classic, written on the eve of the First World War. But this is no children’s fairy tale. Dyk’s version of the story is complex and ambiguous, and the Pied Piper himself emerges as a troubled character, part dreamer, part revolutionary. He also seems unnervingly relevant to our own time. Karolinum Press has just published the Pied Piper in English, in an excellent translation by Mark Corner. David Vaughan
One of the new books out marking the anniversary of the end of WWI is a collection of soldiers´ letters, diaries and memoirs giving a personal account of life in the trenches and on the battlefield. The book’s title Zum Befehl, pane lajtnant (which translates as At your command, lieutenant) is taken from the satirical comedy The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek. I spoke to one of the book’s co-authors, Pavla Horáková, and began by asking how the idea arose to put together such a collection.
Second-hand booksellers in the Czech Republic and several other countries have lost a significant outlet to sell their books abroad after an Amazon subsidiary AbeBooks announced it would no longer support them. In reaction to the announcement, more than 450 antiquarian booksellers from all around the world pulled their books off the website in solidarity with those affected.
Pe’er Friedmann is currently the only active literary translator from Czech into Hebrew. It was his enthusiasm for Karel Čapek, the best-loved Czech writer of the 1920s and 30s, that first brought him from Tel Aviv to Prague eight years ago, and he has been here ever since. In the Czech Republic there is a lively interest in contemporary Israeli writing and at the same time Pe’er has been battling to encourage Israeli publishers to take more interest in Czech literature. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Historians rarely publish comic books, but Martin Nekola is an exception. In cooperation with illustrator Jakub Dušek he has just published a comic book about the fate of Czechs who were forced to flee from their homeland after the 1948 communist coup and who found themselves in a foreign country, torn from their friends and family, having to start anew without a home, job or any kind of security. The comic book, which came out in Czech two weeks ago, is called Do švestek jsme doma or “We’ll be home by the time the plums ripen”, reflecting emigres
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,
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