One of the biggest book events in the Czech Republic was held in the town of Havlíčkův Brod, in eastern Bohemia, at the weekend. The 19th Autumn Book Fair brought together more than 150 publishers from across the country, and attracted some 15,000 visitors. In spite of the economic crisis and competition from other media, Czechs seem to stick to books, no matter what.
Karel Prager is regarded as one of the most important, and most controversial, Czech architects of the second half of the 20th century. Perhaps his best known work is the former Federal Assembly in the centre of Prague, a building many of the city’s residents would consider something of an eye-sore. It was the venue for an unconventional artistic performance on Tuesday night – dedicated to Prager himself.
The Czech poet, playwright and translator Ludvík Kundera was awarded this year’s Jaroslav Seifert prize on Monday recognising his life’s work and contribution to literature. The 89-year-old poet – a cousin of the internationally renowned author Milan Kundera – was given the prize, which includes 250,000 crowns in funds, at the residence of the Prague mayor.
The 19th century Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin is especially important to two particular countries: his father’s homeland of France, where he lived and died, and Poland, where he was born and raised. It is the Czech Republic though that is first to display an item of great importance to Chopin devotees and Poles in general: as a prelude to 2010 as the Year of Chopin, his funeral mask has come to Prague, where it will be on display for the first time outside of Poland.
The model Pattie Boyd was the inspirational force behind two of the greatest modern musicians, “quiet Beatle” George Harrison and the legendary Eric Clapton. Both her former husbands – also very close friends – immortalised her in some of their most famous songs and popular ballads. Now on display in Prague’s Old Town is a collection of Pattie’s private photographs from the inside of that triangular love story, the unintended moral of which is that behind every great man – or two - is a great woman. “Layla” herself was in Prague to share her memories
This week Czech Books met with the writer, feminist and environmental campaigner Eva Hauserová to talk about her novel Cvokyně - or Madwoman - before she left Prague to present it in libraries throughout the country as part of national Book Week. Madwoman tells the story of a time-travelling scientist and uses the science fiction genre to make darkly comic and sardonic comments on Czech society of the 1980s. A newly revised edition of the book was published last month and I first asked Eva to outline its plot.
A Czech architectural landmark has provided the backdrop, and indeed central theme, for a book which has been creating a stir in the literary world. The Glass Room by Simon Mawer tells the story of a modernist villa in a Czech town, from conception to construction, eventually to seizure by the state. The Glass Room has been receiving a great deal of publicity ever since it was nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize. Over the phone from his home in Italy, author Simon Mawer voiced his bewilderment as to why his book was proving so popular
The famous Italian composer Ennio Morricone – the author of more than 400 film scores including classics like Once Upon a Time in the West – was in the Czech Republic this week to cooperate on a new CD. He spent a day in the studio with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra recording some of his most famous work.
All this week, events are taking place around the capital to celebrate contemporary Czech design, as part of Prague’s Designblok festival. On Tuesday night, ‘The Small House’ - an exhibition of modern, compact, living spaces - opened at Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. I went along to find out if less really was more, and meet the architects behind the project:
2009 marks several important anniversaries for the Czech Republic; one we have not heard so much about is the 100th anniversary of the cinema house. The place in question is Prague’s Lucerna Palace, which screened its first film on December 3rd, 1909, and is still today the most popular single-screen cinema in the country.