You may be surprised to hear that one of the events to mark the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia was held at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University in Britain. On October 29 a plaque was unveiled commemorating a secret academic link set up between the university and Czechoslovakia at the height of normalisation in the 1980s. Czech and Slovak students who found themselves unable to go to university because they or their families were out of favour with the communist regime were given the opportunity to study secretly
David Kraus’s administration building in Strančice won this year’s annual Czech architecture award. The building was praised by an international jury for its regional uniqueness and received the prize on Monday at a ceremony, in Prague’s Forum Karlín. The design, along with the winners of partner prizes, will be shown at special exhibitions in Prague and Brno.
Taking advantage of relative liberalisation at home, the young Václav Havel visited New York in the spring of 1968 for the US premiere of his second major play, The Memorandum. It was staged by the Public Theater, which had just had a huge hit with Hair and was headed by director Joseph Papp. He and his wife Gail Papp got to know Havel at that time – and later visited the then dissident at his country home in communist Czechoslovakia.
The Archa Theatre in Prague is renowned as a space where artists and companies from around the world meet and cooperate on projects ranging from contemporary dance, theatre, music, film and multimedia performance. The theatre’s similarly eclectic band in residence – the Allstar Refjúdží Band – emerged a decade ago as part of an Archa project to tell the stories of some refugees in the Czech Republic, in part through their own music.
Novelist and screenwriter Martina Forman settled in the United States in the 1990s after meeting her husband, the great film director Miloš Forman. When we spoke at her apartment overlooking Central Park, the conversation took in her life between New York and Connecticut, her twin sons’ connection to all things Czech, and her husband, who passed away in April at the age of 86. But I first asked Martina Forman about her early days in America.
Most Czechs know the story of the Pied Piper through a writer called Viktor Dyk. His short novel of the same name – Krysař in Czech – is a Czech classic, written on the eve of the First World War. But this is no children’s fairy tale. Dyk’s version of the story is complex and ambiguous, and the Pied Piper himself emerges as a troubled character, part dreamer, part revolutionary. He also seems unnervingly relevant to our own time. Karolinum Press has just published the Pied Piper in English, in an excellent translation by Mark Corner. David Vaughan
One of the new books out marking the anniversary of the end of WWI is a collection of soldiers´ letters, diaries and memoirs giving a personal account of life in the trenches and on the battlefield. The book’s title Zum Befehl, pane lajtnant (which translates as At your command, lieutenant) is taken from the satirical comedy The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek. I spoke to one of the book’s co-authors, Pavla Horáková, and began by asking how the idea arose to put together such a collection.