The East Bohemian town of Litomyšl has a lot to boast of, from its UNESCO World Heritage status to its lively year-round atmosphere. Nonetheless, what this town of 10,000 most frequently boasts of is that it is the birthplace of the composer Bedřich Smetana, and since 1949 it has been the home of a major music festival that bears his name. Now in its 60th year, Smetana's Litomyšl Festival continues to draw some of the biggest personages in classical music.
The world-renowned jazz guitar player Rudy Linka was born in Prague but moved to Sweden at a young age. After half a decade there he left for the US, and has been living in New York for nearly a quarter of a century. In recent years, however, Rudy has been home in the Czech Republic every summer, organising the Bohemia Jazz Fest, a great free event which brings world class jazz musicians to a number of Czech towns and cities. We met at Café Slavia, one of the haunts of his teenage years.
This edition of Music Profile is dedicated to the great Czech rock guitarist Radim Hladík. Hladík was a founder member of two of the leading Czechoslovak bands of the late 1960s, The Matadors and Blue Effect (later known as Modrý Effect) and over the years has played with a host of musicians, including folk singer Jaroslav Hutka.
The sculpture Entropa has been one of the most reported on aspects of the Czech presidency of the European Union. The artwork, which was placed in an EU building in Brussels, lampoons national stereotypes, for instance portraying Romania as a Dracula theme park and France as a country on strike. What’s more, sculptor David Černý managed to fool the then Czech government, who commissioned Entropa, into thinking it was the work of artists from various EU states, when in fact he alone was the author.
The capital event of the Czech literary calendar began this week with the start of the 19th Prague Writers’ Festival. Each year the festival brings dozens of major personages to the Czech Republic from across the world. This year the theme of “the art of storytelling” is being discussed among the literary greats of, what festival founder Michael March calls, “three ancient civilisations: China, Arabia, and Berkley, California.”
The Oxford-Weidenfeld prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious translation awards. This year, six books are being judged by a panel of Oxford academics and translators – amongst them Marek Tomin’s translation of Emil Hakl’s ‘O rodičích a dětech’, titled ‘Of Kids & Parents’. This Tuesday, Marek flies to Britain ahead of tomorrow evening’s ceremony. Just before he left though, I caught up with him to ask what had attracted him to the Czech original of Hakl’s book. As well as the writing style, Marek suggests, there are more personal reasons for
The great American artist, illustrator and writer Robert Crumb has been described as the father of underground comics. His wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb is also a successful cartoonist, known for her autobiographical stories. I met the Crumbs at the start of this year’s Prague Writers’ Festival, where they are among the special guests. Assuming that when they started out cartooning would not have been regarded as literature, when did their art form begin to win respect?
Sunday evening saw the opening of the Czech Republic’s main annual literary event, the Prague Writers’ Festival, at the city’s Laterna Magika theatre. Now in its 19th year, the festival continues its mission of bringing the crème de la crème of the literary world to Prague, and Czech writers to the world’s attention as well.
I first met John Tregellas just after the Velvet Revolution, when we both started working for Radio Prague at a time of huge changes in Czech society. At the time neither of us suspected that nearly two decades later we would both still be here. These days, John, who grew up in the English county of Devon, runs a successful business organizing tours in Central Europe for choirs and orchestras from all over the world. Speaking near perfect Czech, he says that he now feels every bit at home in Prague as he does in his native Britain. I went to see
The 1980s was the last decade of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Political oppression at that time was not as fierce as in the beginning of the totalitarian regime in the 1950s, but still there was no end in sight. Society was demoralized and constantly bullied by the authorities, people mostly cared about themselves more than anything else, and bureaucracy permeated every aspect of life. In short, not a happy time. One of the very few Americans living here in those days was Marsha Kocábová, who came to Prague in 1982. Her book ‘Neither Here nor