My ears pricked up recently when a guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs selected as one of the songs he’d like to be stranded with a track by Louis Armstrong – recorded live in Prague. The LP Louis Armstrong in Prague: Lucerna 1965 was extremely familiar from the racks of the city’s secondhand shops. But I had never picked up a copy.
A new photography exhibition that gets underway in Prague on Thursday takes a novel approach to one of the thornier subjects in modern Czech history: the massacres that took place during the expulsion of millions Germans at the end of WWII. Photographer Lukáš Houdek has reconstructed some of those actual events – using Barbie and Ken dolls. Ahead of the opening of The Art of Killing, Houdek told me about how he prepared for the unusual project.
Last December a group of archaeologists from the National Museum returned from an excavation expedition in the Sudanese locality of Wad Ben Naga. They have been working there since 2009 and are helping their Sudanese colleagues fulfil the requirements to enable the whole area to be registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first ever direct presidential election brought renewed focus on a trauma that continues to haunt Czech society even sixty years after it occurred. The forced deportations of some three million Germans from Czechoslovakia after the end of WWII still divide Czech society, as does the historical role of Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who sanctioned the move.
In today’s edition of the Arts we meet American scholar Kathi Diamant, who has spent years researching and writing about her namesake – Dora Diamant. Dora was a Polish émigré living in Berlin when she met Czech writer Franz Kafka for the first time in 1923. She became the great novelist’s last lover – spending the final eleven months of his life with him in a shared Berlin flat. Kathi Diamant has just written a book about Dora, titled ‘Kafka’s Last Love’. She spoke to Radio Prague’s Anna Kubišta about how she originally became interested in the
“Illusions of Redemption” is the title of a new book that looks at the history of Czech feminist thinking in the 19th and 20th centuries. From the ideals of the French Revolution through the 19th century confined lifestyle and the liberal First Republic, to the Communists’ forceful push for a new society, the work follows the struggle of Czech feminists for equality. RP spoke to one of the authors, Libuše Heczková, of Prague’s Charles University, and first asked her what made them decide on that particular name for their book.
For over four decades, Czechs have at this time of year – once covertly but now openly – marked the death of Jan Palach, who on January 16 1969 set himself on fire in protest at society’s resignation in the face of the Soviet occupation that began five months earlier. This year one of the events commemorating Palach’s act of self-sacrifice has been the launch of a new website containing a wealth of material on the student’s life, death and much more.
The Austrian Cultural Forum in Prague has a new exhibition showcasing the work of Viennese-born photographer Gerti Deutsch. She grew up in Vienna and also resided in Paris and Salzburg, but it was in London, that she began to be taken more seriously as a professional woman. She began working as a freelance photojournalist for the then-newly founded ‘Picture Post’.
“Twenty years on Czech and Slovak Squares” is the name of a new exhibition of photos, posters, newspapers and other memorabilia documenting the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia and developments in both countries since. The venue, the Czech National Museum’s New Building, is wholly appropriate, as in the past it housed the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly.
Today, in Prague’s bookstores one can find titles in a number of world languages – English, German, Russian, French, and of course Czech. It is much harder these days, although not impossible, to find books published in Hebrew. But five hundred years ago, a little less than a century after the Gutenberg press was invented, the first Hebrew book in Central Europe, and possibly north of the Alps, was printed right here in Prague.