A few days ago the Booker Prize winning Irish writer John Banville was in Prague, to receive one of Europe’s most coveted literary awards, the Franz Kafka Prize. David Vaughan took the opportunity to talk to the writer about his work and his fascination with the cultural and literary world of Central Europe.
This Thursday saw the opening of the 12th annual Mezipatra Queer Film festival in the Czech Republic. In this week’s Arts, I talk to the head of the festival Aleš Rumpel, who discussed not only this year’s main theme but also its focus on the work of Todd Haynes. Also discussed are gay and lesbian issues in the Czech Republic, gay studies, as well as queer interpretations of the popular Sci-Fi series Star Trek.
One of the legends of the Czech underground, poet Ivan Martin Jirous, died in Prague on Thursday at the age of 67. Ivan Jirous, or Magor – literally “the crazy one” as he was affectionately called by his friends – was perhaps best-known as the artistic manager and spiritual leader of the underground band The Plastic People of the Universe, but this eternal rebel was also a sensitive, contemplative poet and master of the Czech language.
This week’s Sunday Music Show is dedicated to the late Czech film-score composer Zdeněk Liška who was recently rewarded posthumously by the Culture Ministry for his outstanding contribution to Czech cinema. An extremely prolific composer, between the 1950s and 1980s Zdeněk Liška wrote the scores to some 500 feature films, television series and documentaries.
This Thursday saw the opening of a new exhibition at the National Gallery’s Kinský Palace Stables Gallery marking 100 years since the death of post-impressionist painter, man-of-letters and critic Miloš Jiránek, who contributed strongly to the Czech “National Awakening” at the end of the 19th century. Although he died at the age of just 35, Jiránek was a most influential figure whose paintings, as well as written works, have seen renewed appreciation. The show, entitled The Polemics of Miloš Jiránek, features oils, water colours, drawings, and woodcut
As one art critic once said, the paintings of Josef Lada accompany Czechs from cradle to grave. He is as well known for his illustrations of fairy tales and children’s readers as he is for his landscapes, which each Christmas are printed thousands of times over on the front of the nation’s Christmas cards. Lada was also the artist who gave the grinning, rotund Good Soldier Švejk his form.
The best-selling American writer Robert Fulghum has such an enthusiastic following in the Czech Republic that he has published several of his books here in Czech translation before they have even appeared at home. That includes his latest book, “If You Love Me Still, Will You Love Me Moving?” Its subtitle “Tales from the Century Ballroom” hints at its theme – that most passionate of ballroom dances, tango. Last week Robert Fulghum was in Prague to promote the book, and found time to pay a visit to the radio. David Vaughan met him.
The independence of Czechoslovakia, which we celebrate each October 28, was the result of a movement of many decades, and when at least it came, in 1918, after four hard years of war, the joy must have been very palpable. There are so few alive today who can remember that period, but it is certainly not lost to us, and one of the ways we can relive it is through the music of the day.