For Czechs, the 20th century was a turbulent time. Independent Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918 only to later fall victim to the two great tyrannies of modern history – Nazism and communism. Many Czechs fled their country during the 20th century so that they could live as free people, and often simply to save their lives. Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Egon Hostovský, one of the most distinctive and significant modern-day Czech writers, who fled his country twice, first to escape the Nazis, and later the Communists.
The Czech literary world held its annual awards for the best literary works of 2008, the Magnesia Litera, this weekend. The prize for Book of the Year went to Petr Nikl’s Zahadky, but the reader’s prize went to the author and children’s book illustrator Petr Sís, for his The Wall: Growing Up Behind The Iron Curtain, a book of memoirs of life in communist Czechoslovakia that’s rapidly winning acclaim throughout the world. Petr Sís lives in New York, and before he left to pick up the award in Prague, Ian Willoughby discussed the book with him at
Hello and welcome to this month’s edition of Music Profile. Today, we’re leafing through the back catalogue of Václav Neckář – who you might know better for his acting than for his singing. Neckář can boast a string of number one albums in this country, spanning a period of over forty years, and he’s got an Oscar to boot. For what? Find out in Music Profile.
Forty inhabitants of the village of Líšeň on the outskirts of Brno receive instructions before they get off the bus at the Berlin Wall to take part in the annual Biennial of Art. Near the wall are exact copies of fences they have in their backyards at home. In a while they’ll be climbing over to meet their neighbours. For many of them, it will be the first time they’ll shake hands or talk to each other. The person who brought them together is the Czech artist Kateřina Šedá. When we met in Prague, I ask her where she got this idea in the first
Hundreds of cameras flashed on Thursday when seven representatives of church and state, including President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk gathered in Prague’s St Vitus cathedral to unlock the chamber in which the Czech crown jewels are stored. The chamber only opens when all seven keepers of the keys unlock seven different locks at the same time. The crown jewels were then taken to Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall, the traditional site of the coronation of kings, where they will be put on display for
Werich’s villa in Prague’s Kampa Park, once home of the famous Czech actor Jan Werich, will open its door to the public next year. The villa has been uninhabited and falling apart for years, but all the previous attempts to lease it fell through. The city council this week finally rent it to Meda Mládková, head of the nearby Kampa Museum, for the next 40 years. After renovations it will serve as a cultural space for screenings, debates and performances. I spoke to Mrs Mládková earlier and began by asking her a bit about the site’s history.
It’s nearly midday and Prague’s Old Town Square is heaving with people taking photos of the astrological clock, tour groups which you can probably hear behind me, and pizzerias and Czech pubs selling lunchtime fare. But in the midst of all of this hubbub, there is one thing missing, and I’m joined here by Eva Skalická of Prague Town Council, who is here to tell me exactly what that thing is.
The One World (Jeden Svět) festival of human rights documentaries has established itself as one of the most interesting events on the Czech Republic’s cultural calendar, and the biggest festival of its kind in Europe. This year, to mark its 10th anniversary, One World (run by the NGO People in Need) is organising mini festivals in 10 cities around the world – including New York. At the opening at the city’s (under renovation) Bohemian National Hall on Monday night, I spoke to organiser Tereza Porybná.
Hundreds of people used the opportunity on Tuesday to browse the collections of the Czech National Museum for free. The country’s biggest museum has opened its doors to the public to celebrate its 190th anniversary, which falls on the 15th of April. It’s also holding a series of other events to mark its birthday. But most of all it is getting ready for a major renovation project, that will get under way in three years’ time.