Jantar Publishing is a London-based press that brings translated titles from Central and Eastern Europe to a broader international audience. So far all of its releases have been Czech, ranging from Karel Jaromir Erben’s classic 19th century poem Kytice (The Bouquet) to a novel by Michal Viewegh that was a huge hit in the original. The man behind Jantar Publishing is Michael Tate, an Englishman who has in the past lived in Prague. When we met at the British Library last month, I asked Tate what had led him to launch the company five or six years
Music is an essential part of the unique Christmas atmosphere. Along with the scent of frankincense and spices, fried carp on the Christmas Eve table, the candles, baubles and mistletoe – traditional music is what makes Czech Christmas complete. Besides Advent and Christmas church music, including the “Czech Christmas Mass” by Jakub Jan Ryba, the local Christmas musical heritage also abounds in folk songs and carols.
Every year, dozens of students in the Czech Republic graduate from art schools, but only a few of them actually succeed in establishing themselves on the art market. Two years ago, Jana Laštovka, herself a graduate of the Prague Fine Arts Academy, established a unique online gallery that specializes in selling works of young artists, helping them gain recognition. Since it was founded, the young Real Art gallery has sold hundreds of artworks.
The UK's Second Run DVD recently celebrated 10 years of existence and 100 releases. About a quarter of the reissue company’s titles have been Czechoslovak films, ranging from the relatively famous Intimate Lighting by Ivan Passer to Adelheid, a lesser known work by František Vláčil, director of the classic Marketa Lazarová. When I met the company’s founder Mehelli Modi at a busy London café I wanted to know how he selects the Czechoslovak movies he released. As he explained, it all springs from his own passion for film.
The Friends of Czech Heritage is a British charity that raises funds to help repair and preserve historical buildings in the Czech Republic. It also organises work parties in which members travel here from the UK to take part in restoration projects in a very hands on-manner. Retired architect Peter Jamieson is the chairman of the Friends of Czech Heritage. When we met in London, he filled me in on his connections to the country to which he now devotes so much time and energy.
For the last two years, Tereza Porybná has been the director of the Czech Centre in London. Under her leadership, the UK branch of the international network of cultural institutes is working to cultivate a cool, modern image of the Czech Republic via projects in fields such as the performing arts and design. Last week I discussed its work with Porybná in her office at the Czech Centre, which is in the fashionable Covent Garden district.
Vladimír Fišer, the legendary radio announcer who in 1968 announced the news of the Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia has died at the age of 81. A popular radio personality Fišer excelled as a talk show host, a presenter of radio plays and a dubber artist, but in the minds of the Czech people he will always be remembered at “the voice of 1968”.