This summer, director and screenwriter Ivan Fíla’s historical novel about Dr. František Kriegel – the only Prague Spring leader not to sign the Moscow Protocol validating the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia – became a bestseller. That success led Fíla to return to a “fairy tale thriller” film script he’d set aside long ago and turn it into a novel.
The celebrated Czech-born writer Milan Kundera received Czech citizenship forty years after it was revoked by the communist regime. The author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being was stripped of his citizenship after going into exile in France and his works were banned in his homeland until the 1980s.
In a remarkable work of oral history, four students with the help of former dissident and award winning author Aleš Palán have produced a 270 page history of the events that took place in Prague on November 17, 1989. One of them is Alžběta Ambrožová, a 26 year old graduate of English and American Studies. She says that around 300 testimonies were collected through a mix of interviews and online questionnaires. I began by asking her about how people felt going into that watershed event in Czech history.
Prague’s historically working-class Žižkov district is perhaps best known today for its abundance of pubs (even by Czech standards) and colossal TV Tower – once voted the world’s second ugliest building. Lesser-known is the rich cultural history of what some natives proclaim the “Independent Republic of Žižkov”. Two of its proudest sons, Jaroslav and Miroslav Čvančara, have just published a sweeping illustrated book about the Prague 3 district, literally filling in the historical picture.
Václav Havel’s relationship to the United States is the focus of the recently issued book Havel v Americe (Havel in America) by historian Rosamund Johnston and journalist Lenka Kabrhelová. Mainly based on Q&A-style interviews, it contains insights and anecdotes from Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, both presidents Bush and a host of others and is the first publication to concentrate on the subject. When I met the authors, I first asked Johnston about the genesis of Havel v Americe.
Ondřej Sekora is perhaps best-known as the author of the beloved cartoon character Ferda Mravenec or Ferdy the Ant. But Sekora was more than just an illustrator and comics author. He was also a journalist, an amateur entomologist, and one of the first propagators of rugby in Czechoslovakia. The Moravian Museum in Brno will mark 120 years since Ondřej Sekora’s birth with an exhibition and a new monography.
In a book just out, the renowned Czech author and illustrator Renáta Fučíková tells the story of Czechs in North America. The idea to chronicle stories of Czech immigrants originated in Chicago, which is sometimes referred to as “the most Czech city” in the US. I met up with Renáta Fučíková at her studio in the Old Town district of Prague, where she was putting finishing touches on the final illustrations for her new book.
The National Library of Israel has started digitising a long-lost batch of archival materials, belonging to Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod. They include, among other things, Kafka’s personal diary and a notebook in which he practiced Hebrew. Israel received the missing documents from a Swiss bank in August after years of international searches and legal disputes over the author’s legacy.
After the end of the Second World War it was often very difficult to catch and bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice. Historian Vojtěch Kyncl from the Czech Academy of Sciences has written a new book called Beasts: Czechoslovakia and the Persecution of Nazi Criminals, which explores the Czechoslovak side of this endeavour. I began by asking him when the allies, including Czechoslovakia, first committed to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
Archaeologists unearth seven graves dating back to Great Moravian Empire
Czech biochemist involved in developing potential coronavirus treatment
“Einstein in Bohemia” – Part II: how alienation in ‘half-barbaric’ Prague led him to a new theory of gravity, eventual love of a free Czechoslovakia
“Einstein in Bohemia” – part 1: how a Prague sojourn sparked his theory of general relativity, journey of self-discovery
Valentine’s Day 1945 - When the Americans bombed Prague