This November marked the 40th anniversary of the death of Johannes Urzidil, the Prague-born writer, poet, historian and journalist. Urzidil was a member of the so-called Prague Circle, a group of mostly Jewish German-speaking authors who met regularly in the city’s cafes in the early part years of the 20th century. While not as well known obviously as his friend and fellow author Franz Kafka, Urzidil has a firm following, and some of them gathered in Prague recently to remember his life and work.
In Prague’s Old Town, on the corner of Celetná Street and Ovocný trh, you will find the House of the Black Madonna, one of the most distinctive structures in a city known for its unparalleled mix of architectural styles. It was the first building in the rare Cubist style of architecture strongly associated with the city, and today houses a Cubist museum.
It is only every five years or so that the renowned Czech animator Jan Švankmajer brings out a new film, and the wait is now over. “Surviving Life” draws on many of Švankmajer’s traditional themes and styles while exploring them through an experimental medium, once again confirming why he is the most acclaimed Czech art house director at home and abroad.
A highly-touted production of Karel Čapek’s play The Makropulos Case, directed by acclaimed American designer and director Robert Wilson, premiered at Prague’s Estates Theatre on Thursday. Mr Wilson is known for a highly unique approach to the stage and The Makropulos Case (a comedy about an enigmatic singer sought by all men) includes many signature elements.
This month we are celebrating a major Czech literary anniversary. Two hundred years ago the great Czech romantic poet, Karel Hynek Mácha, was born in Prague. To mark the anniversary a new English edition of his most famous poem “Máj” (May) has been published and in this week’s Czech Books, David Vaughan talks to the translator, Marcela Sulak.
After a first leg in the Moravian capital Brno, the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival opens in Prague on Thursday with a programme that combines movies exploring gender and sexual identity with a series of other cultural and social events. Mezipatra, the biggest event of its kind in the Czech Republic, has been going since the year 2000; on the eve of the Prague opening, I asked director Aleš Rumpel how the festival had changed over the years.
Prague’s National Gallery, one of the country’s most respected cultural institutions which includes a number of venues including Veletržní palace, has, along with other state-funded organisations, been told by the austerity government to save 15 percent of its budget next year. The cuts, following the earlier financial crisis, are expected to hit the gallery hard. While some steps have already been taken – a reduction in the number of exhibitions, a cutting back on acquisitions, a lowering of the number of staff – it is not likely to be enough.
Today in Mailbox: We quote from your correct answers to our October quiz question and announce the name of the lucky winner. Listeners quoted:Asifa Shaneen, Hans Verner Lollike, Roger Tidy, Ganesh Chandra Kundu, Jayanta Chakrabarty, S. J. Agboola, Mogire Machuki, Paul Peacock, Evelyn Coviello, David Eldridge, Alan Roe, Stephen Wara, Charles Konecny, Meng Cheng, Colin Law.
Coal in the Soul by Martin Dušek and Ondřej Provazník last weekend won the main prize at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, the leading event of its kind in the Czech Republic. The original Czech title translates literally as Women of the North Bohemian Brown Coal Mining District, pointing to the film’s central theme: two women with diametrically opposing viewpoints on whether a small town named Horní Jiřetín should be razed to the ground to allow mining to continue in the area.
It is a key anecdote in Czech musical history: that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart felt better in Prague than anywhere else. That feeling was based - among other things, no doubt - on his outstanding success at the city’s Estates Theatre, which was the scene of that and other important moments in Czech cultural history. And it’s the focus of today’s Spotlight by Christian Falvey.