Not many of the thousands of passengers arriving every day at London’s busy St Pancras Station are aware that they are passing just a few dozen metres away from one of the largest and most diverse collections of Czech books outside the Czech Republic. Tucked in beside the station is the huge, but surprisingly inconspicuous complex of the British Library. In this week’s Czech Books, David Vaughan shows us some of the highlights of the library’s rich Czech collection.
In the first two weeks of its showing, the new Czech film Kajínek has shattered all of the country’s previous box office records. The ambitious home-grown take on the crime thriller genre, based on the story of convicted contract killer Jiří Kajínek, received massive promotion but its popularity has also been fuelled by persisting doubts about Kajínek’s guilt.
One of the country’s most respected poets and literary scholars, Ludvík Kundera, died on Tuesday at the age of 90. The writer (a cousin of the internationally-renowned author Milan Kundera) had a wide scope, writing poetry, drama, prose and translating from several languages. Last year he received the Jaroslav Seiffert prize for life-long achievement.
Back in the mid 1990s Tomáš Zilvar quickly moved from putting together DIY fanzines to publishing glossy titles like Tripmag and XMAG, magazines that were focused on electronic music at a time when that genre was really taking off among young Czechs. Today Zilvar, who is still in his early 30s, has two jobs: running the Prague office of the hip New York-based magazine and website Vice; and offering digitalisation services to Czech media outlets and authors keen to enter the age of e-readers.
In his basement studio in the Šelmberkovský Palace in Prague’s Malá Strana, Oldřich Škácha is visibly amused as he points out a shot he took in 1991. It features then finance minister Václav Klaus, grinning broadly, flanked by two bunny girls at a Playboy ball. Škácha says he likes to exhibit the picture today as a little jab at the president.
A new school devoted solely to Irish dancing will soon open its doors in Prague. Lessons at Luas, Irish for speed, are due to start next month. Ahead of the start of the first course, the school’s director, Tereza Loužecká Bachová, invited all those curious about this dancing style to try it out themselves. She spoke to us before the sample lesson, about Irish dancing and why it fascinates her, and when classes will kick off.
There’s a bitter legal dispute at the moment over the fate of 20 massive paintings by the artist Alphonse Mucha, who created the style known as ‘art nouveau’ in the early 20th century. The cycle of 20 thematic paintings – known collectively as the Slav Epic - has spent the last 47 years in a crumbling castle in the town of Moravský Krumlov. Officials in Prague, however, now want them back, causing an uproar in Moravia, and elsewhere in the country.
Welcome to our first edition of Music Express, bringing you music and interviews with some of the Czech Republic’s brightest young stars and biggest names. Today: a group that first broke onto the scene just two-and-a-half years ago, called Airfare. Founded by Czech-American frontman Thomas Lichtag, now 23, the four-member band plays catchy, sometimes harder alternative rock, with all songs sung in English. The singer/guitarist came into the studio this week to discuss how the band got its start. He also talked about their first big hit Sorry Baby
On Thursday, Sázavafest kicked off in the Central Bohemian town of Kácov. Its site is located near the Sázava river, which provides both the name and the scenic backdrop for one of the country’s most popular music festivals. It drew some 20.000 visitors in 2009 and organizers are expecting a similar turn-out this year.
The 15th International Organ Festival got underway at Prague’s St James’ Basilica on Thursday night with a recital by the American organist John Scott. In a series of eight concerts over a month and a half, the city’s music lovers will have the chance to hear some of the world’s best players perform on greatest organ in the Czech capital.