Though forced to live in exile for most of his life, the world-renowned pianist Rudolf Firkušný maintained strong Czech traditions at his home in the United States. Indeed, his daughter Véronique Firkusny’s mother tongue was Czech and today she translates leading authors from her parents’ homeland and helps opera singers get to grips with Czech-language works. When we spoke in New York, I first asked Véronique Firkusny how her father had viewed the situation in his native country following the Communist takeover of 1948.
The Czech Republic’s annual Muriel Award for the best comic book of the year was given to Svatá Barbora or Saint Barbara, a graphic novel about a highly publicised child-abuse case. The novel, a joint endeavour by writer Marek Šindelka, screenwriter Vojtěch Mašek and illustrator Marek Pokorný, also won the prize for best illustrations.
Otakar Dušek is a designer and artist with a passion for history and historical justice – something he hopes to instil in his students at the prestigious Václav Hollar School of Art in Prague. That passion helped propel him from a teacher of graphic design, fonts and computer graphics to world renowned medallist – an artist specialising in commemorative medals.
Czechs are marking twenty years since the death of Jaroslav Foglar, youth movement activist and author of the legendary comics Rapid Arrows. Among the events remembering the famous writer is a performance of his novel Mystery of the Puzzle Box at Prague’s Minor theatre, which has been sold out for weeks. Meanwhile, the Scout Foundation of Jaroslav Foglar, which is in charge of his heritage, is releasing a special, limited edition of his autobiography.
It is not just Czechs who are currently remembering Jan Palach’s radical protest in January 1969 and the impact his sacrifice helped create. The British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Nick Archer, has had a painting by a UK artist – created right after Palach’s death – installed at his country’s historic embassy building in Prague. He explains the background to the acquisition.
Houpací koně, who have been determinedly doing their own thing in the north Bohemian town of Ústí nad Labem for over a quarter of a century now, recently released their eighth LP of expansive guitar-based rock. Though title track Desolation Peak and other tracks have English titles, the record again features finely-honed Czech lyrics from group leader Jiří Imlauf.
Shoegaze, the musical genre marked by washes of effects-driven guitar and ethereal vocals, was born in the UK three decades ago. Among those keeping it alive and well today are Manon Meurt, a young band from the Central Bohemian town of Rakovník. Though indebted to My Bloody Valentine and others, the indie outfit’s recently released debut LP MMXVIII (produced by The Ecstasy of St. Theresa founder Jan P. Muchow) more than stands comparison to much of the shoegaze canon.