This week Czech Books is looking at the novel Mrchopěvci, or Gravelarks, the first novel by the hugely accomplished polymath and polyglot author Václav Pinkava, who wrote - amongst others - under the pen name Jan Křesadlo. Pinkava was born in Prague in 1926 and emigrated to Britain in 1969 where he worked as a clinical psychologist in Colchester. Gravelarks was his first novel, written during his early retirement; it was hailed by author Josef Škvorecký as "one of the most original, shocking, truthful works of contemporary Czech fiction" and was
Jiří Jírů developed a love for photography from his uncle, the avant-garde Czech photographer Václav Jírů, before studying the discipline in Brussels and working for US publications such as Time and Newsweek. In the course of his career, Jiří Jírů has snapped celebrities ranging from the Bee Gees to Queen Elizabeth II, and spent almost a decade working as President Václav Havel’s official photographer. Jírů divides his time between Prague and Brussels, which is where he found himself on August 21, 1968:
Before the Second World War, the Czech capital was home to several ethnic groups – the Czechs, the Germans, and the Jews. Their co-existence in the modern era was often a source of conflict that only deepened after the 1918 foundation of Czechoslovakia. The question of identity in the multi-ethnic environment posed considerable challenges for leading intellectuals of the time; among them was the Prague writer, journalist and composer Max Brod. In this edition of Czechs in History, we talk to the Prague-based French historian Gaelle Vassogne, the
Sally Hawkins received a best actress award at the Golden Globes for her portrayal of a relentlessly positive school teacher in the British film Happy-Go-Lucky. Mike Leigh was nominated for an Oscar for the movie’s screenplay, which is somewhat ironic as his films don’t have scripts as such: the director of Naked and Secrets and Lies sets out a basic premise, which the actors develop through improvisation in rehearsals. At its Czech premiere at the weekend I spoke to Mike Leigh about Happy-Go-Lucky, and his unusual approach to filmmaking.
A new translation of the Bible into modern-day Czech hit the bookshelves on Wednesday. The New Testament was actually published a decade ago, though only now have translators managed to complete the Old Testament. Alexandr Flek, the head of the team behind “The Bible – a 21st Century Translation”, explains why the new Czech translation of the Bible has been created.
In the 1970s the communist authorities tolerated popular music as long as it was insipid, colourless and unoriginal – everything that the Czech psychedelic rock band The Plastic People of the Universe most definitely was not. Their music was inspired by Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground, their lyrics anarchic, their behaviour unconventional and their hair long. In 1976 four members of the band were sentenced to prison terms for what was described as “organised disturbance of the peace”, and in December of the same year Czechoslovak Radio broadcast
Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka, the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince, has just been performed for the last time this season at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The Met’s production starred the soprano Renee Fleming and was directed by the renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, who spoke to Radio Prague on the eve of the final performance.
In less than three weeks time the results of the biggest literature prize in the Czech Republic, the Magnesia Litera, will be announced and excitement has been rising since the announcement of the nominated books last month. The prize is unusual in that it has nine different categories including, apart from fiction and poetry, books for young readers, non-fiction and best translation. As well as winners in each category an overall "best book" is also chosen. Given the vast number of books under consideration, judging the competition is a mammoth