Next week, books in the Czech Republic will have their moment in the media limelight. Czech Television will be screening a glitzy awards ceremony for this country’s best-known literary awards, the Magnesia Litera. Over the last sixteen years the awards have helped to draw attention to writers, poets, translators and publishers. There are no less than nine different categories, helping to give the awards ceremony a flavour of the Oscars – a deliberate strategy of Magnesia Litera’s media-savvy founder, Pavel Mandys. He came into the studio to talk
Exactly 20 years have passed since the independent Czech Republic celebrated its first ever Oscar win for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie was Kolya, a surprise global critical hit directed by Jan Svěrák, which tells the story of a Czech cellist, played by Jan's father Zdeněk, who is left to raise a young Russian boy after his mother abandons him.
Among an impressive range of new exhibitions at the Czech National Gallery’s Trade Fair Palace is an installation by the UK artist and musician Brian Eno. Though Eno is known to many for his work with U2 and David Bowie, the immersive work The Ship builds on his status as the inventor of ambient music.
Petr Janyška is the head of the Czech Literary Centre, a recently created state agency that aims to promote the country’s writers internationally. Originally a translator, Janyška was one of the founders of the weekly Respekt before working for many years as a diplomat. Before getting on to his plans for the Czech Literary Centre, I asked him during a recent meeting about his own connection to books and writing.
Czech organist and jazz musician Ondřej Pivec features on this year’s Grammy Award-winning album Take Me to the Alley by Gregory Porter. The Czech musician, who currently works and resides in New York, has recorded five albums under his own name and appeared on more than thirty as an accompanist. He currently leads an r&b-jazz-pop band called Kennedy Administration and plays the organ in a gospel church choir in Brooklyn.
A major new exhibition by the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei opens in Prague on Thursday evening. The show is centred around an enormous recreation of a lifeboat highlighting the plight of refugees – and Ai told reporters that Europe’s handling of the crisis raised major questions surrounding its values.
The management of Prague’s National Theatre this week symbolically launched planned renovation of the State Opera, located not far from Wenceslas Square. The project is set to cost 858 million crowns and will take more than two years, during which time the State Opera will put on productions at other venues. It is the first major renovation job on a large state-owned theatre since 1989.
Petra Dočekalová is a graduate of the Typography Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. Her calligraphy thesis, in which she developed her own handwritten scripts, has recently won two prestigious international awards, including the certificate of Typographic Excellence 2017 from the Type Directors Club. I met with Petra Dočekalová in her studio, hidden in a backyard just a few steps from Prague’s Old Town Square, and I first asked her why she chose calligraphy as the topic of her thesis: