When Tomáš Zmeškal’s first novel was published four years ago, one critic described it in ecstatic terms as a “gold vein amid the deadwood of contemporary Czech scribbling”. The book, A Love Letter in Cuneiform Script, went on to win the coveted European Union Prize for Literature last year and Tomáš Zmeškal has won international acclaim, although we are still waiting for either of his two novels published so far to appear in English. David Vaughan talks to the writer.
Director Miloš Forman celebrates his 80th birthday on Saturday, and newspapers in his native country are full of tributes. In the small category of Czech artists who have conquered the world, Forman has a seat among the likes of Antonín Dvořák and Milan Kundera and Czechs are dulely proud of him for his success. But his approach to filmmaking and style of direction also permanently altered the course of cinematography in the Czech Republic and elsewhere, a fact we discussed earlier with Karel Och, the artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International
Helena Třeštíková, the country’s leading documentary maker, has released her latest project – a feature-length film titled "Soukromý vesmír”, which chronicles the life of one Czech family over a remarkable time span of 37 years. By adding archive TV footage and putting the family’s story into a wider context, the director was able to paint not just a family portrait, but also the portrait of a country.
Hugo Haas was one of the stars of Czechoslovak cinema's golden age of the 1930s. This versatile actor and director was hugely popular in the First Republic and he appeared in a number of classic films from that era. Despite his success, however, Haas's life and career - like that of so many other Czechs who lived during this period - was blighted by the tide of history that swept through Czechoslovakia in the 20th century.
The annual Bohemian Carnevale got underway this week, and for the next seven days carnival-lovers will have a chance to forget the freezing temperatures in Prague with masked balls, parades and acrobatic performances. The event is an attempt to revive what was a major social event in days gone by – one that attracted big-name celebrities such as Mozart and Casanova.
This week’s Sunday Music Show is devoted to Karel Svoboda one of the country’s most prolific composers, the author of countless hit-songs, well-known scores for films, musicals, TV series and theatre productions. Although the man himself was never centre stage several generations of Czechs grew up with his music and people still hum many of his evergreens.
Nothing better symbolizes the political thaw in 1960s Czechoslovakia than the boom in jazz, which many saw as embodying the very idea of individual expression and freedom from constraint. It is not hard to imagine the excitement when Louis Armstrong came to Prague in March 1965. Many people felt that Czechoslovakia had at last come in from the cold, and his concert at Prague’s Lucerna Ballroom was a cultural milestone. It ended with Satchmo thanking his audience, commenting that the Czech passion for jazz had come as quite a surprise to him.
Here is a question for the Dickens bicentenary. What is the connection between the great 19th century English novelist and the best-loved Czech literary anti-hero? The answer is, surprisingly enough, that without Dickens we quite possibly wouldn’t have Švejk at all. David Vaughan looks at this and some other Czech links with Dickens in this week’s Czech Books.
The undisputed most famous Czech director alive today, Milos Forman speaks about his varied career in the Czechoslovakia and in Hollywood ahead of his 80th birthday. I’ll be talking to the model, singer and now actress Iva Fruhlingova about what it’s like to make her screen debut and the ups and downs of working with one of the most successful Czech directors still resident in the country, Filip Renc.