Fifty years ago, on 1 May 1965, annual student festivities in Prague to mark the joys of spring culminated in the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg being declared “Král majálesu” – the King of May. A week later, Ginsberg’s visit to Czechoslovakia was cut short when the authorities labelled him an “immoral menace” and put him on a plane to London. But the Czech affection for the writings of the Beat Generation remains to this day. David Vaughan looks at some of the American writers that have captured the Czech imagination in the decades since World
In this week’s Arts, our guest is the New York-based jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer, who has received great acclaim for his take on J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations as well as other projects. Dan Tepfer was in the Czech Republic this week for a special performance at Prague Castle as part of the American Spring.
The new documentary The Old Man and the World explores the life of one of the greatest of Czech travellers, Miroslav Zikmund. The exploits of Zikmund (now almost 96) and his partner Jiří Hanzelka made them big stars in a period beginning in the late 1940s. The film is directed by Petr Horký, a traveller who has himself shot in around 80 countries around the world. Before we discussed the documentary, I asked Horký when his own wanderlust began.
Amanita Design is the independent Czech game design studio behind the point-and-click adventure games Machinarium and Botanicula. With beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds and richly-designed worlds, the games put players in the shoes of protagonists such as a broken little robot or a group of unusual creatures who face robotic wrongdoers and a dark parasitic force, respectively. Both titles have proven very successful. Recently, I caught up with Jakub Dvorský, and asked him not only about the games but also how he started his business.
The top Book of the Year prize at the prestigious Magnesia litera awards has just gone to Básník, or Poet, which is subtitled A Novel about Ivan Blatný. The book – which had already picked up other major Czech literary honours – is the magnum opus of Brno-based author Martin Reiner. The day after the prize ceremony in Prague, I asked the writer what had drawn him to Blatný, who spent much of his life in psychiatric care in the UK.
The guerrilla art group Ztohoven, known for their controversial projects and often operating in anonymity, have made a somewhat surprising move. At the end of last year, they opened an official institution, a so-called institute of crypto-anarchy. Situated in a former factory building in Holešovice, the Paralelní Polis or parallel world will serve as a hacker space, a hub and a bitcoin café. According to its founders, it will offer the public a possibility to “step out of the system”
The multi-million selling classical crossover artist Maksim Mrvica is set to perform in the Czech capital for the first time next month. Ahead of that concert, the Croatian pianist, who looks like more like a rock star than most rock stars, stopped by at Radio Prague’s studios for a conversation that took in everything from his experiences as a teenager during the Yugoslav conflict to “Maksim-mania” in the Far East.
The hit comedy Samotáři (The Loners) was a generational film exploring the lives of aimless young people a decade after the fall of communism. The year 2000 movie’s clubby soundtrack today feels like something of a time capsule, with names like the Ecstasy of St. Theresa, Ohm Square and Here highly evocative of the Prague of that era.