In 1902 the 26-year-old Rainer Maria Rilke went to Paris to write a monograph of the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. By that time Rodin was in his early 60s and was already recognized as one of the great artists of his time. The highly sensitive young poet who had spent his childhood in Prague was convinced that Rodin could help him to understand how to live and work as an artist. Their brief but intense relationship is the subject of “You Must Change Your Life”, a lively portrait of the two men at during those years. Its author, the American art
Richard Askwith is a well-known writer and journalist, but perhaps more than anything else he is a runner. In his native Britain he won a cult following with his book Feet in the Clouds, which maps his obsession with the strange and exhilarating sport of fell-running. His hobby left him well placed for writing a biography of the greatest of all Czech runners, Emil Zátopek, legendary for his will-power and endurance. Richard Askwith was in Prague recently to launch the Czech translation of the book, Today We Die a Little: Emil Zátopek, Olympic Legend
David Lawson had never heard of Ostrava when, fifteen years ago, his London synagogue received a Sefer Torah that had belonged to a once vibrant community in that industrial city. Now, it’s fair to say, he is an expert on both the history of Ostrava and the key role Jews played in its development over centuries. I asked Mr. Lawson, co-author of the new book “Ostrava and its Jews: Now no-one sings you lullabies”, how it all came about.
David Short first came to Prague as a student over fifty years ago. He remained for the best part of six years, experiencing at first hand the Prague Spring and then the Soviet-led invasion. He went on to become a mainstay of Czech and Slovak studies in Britain, over nearly four decades giving students at the University of London insights into the quirks of the Czech and Slovak languages. Since his retirement and with a bit more time on his hands David has focused on his work as a literary translator. It was in acknowledgement of his huge contribution
In the last edition of Czech Books we featured an interview with Zuzana Justman, who with her older brother and mother survived the wartime Terezín ghetto. Her brother Jiří Robert Pick later wrote a remarkable novel set in the ghetto, under the title “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The book draws richly from his own memories; with an unexpected lightness and humour it tells the story of a teenage boy and the people around him – his friends and the older men sharing a ward with him in the ghetto infirmary. Thanks to Zuzana Justman
“Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” is a remarkable book by many standards. It is a comic novel set in the wartime Jewish ghetto in Terezín, written by the Czech satirist Jiří Robert Pick some twenty years after he survived the ghetto. The book is a classic, sparkling with life and humour, in defiance of the dehumanizing environment in which it was written. Thanks to J. R. Pick’s sister, the award-winning documentary film-maker Zuzana Justman, the book has just been published in English translation. In a two-part special, Zuzana talks
Towering Jewish-American author Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. And while most of the tributes will rightly focus on his many prize winning works over 60 years, there was another aspect to his life as well: the timely help he gave to dissident Czechoslovak writers after 1968 and the crushing of the so-called Prague Spring.
If you enjoy noir crime stories with their troubled, ambivalent heroes and creepy, underworld settings, you are in for a treat. Akashic Books in New York have just added Prague to their award-winning series of original noir anthologies. The collection includes some of the biggest names in Czech contemporary fiction and is full of surprises, offering us a Prague that lurches deliciously from the magical to the seedy, from a misty past to a hi-tech future. The book had its Prague launch a few days ago in the Globe English-language bookstore, and David
The annual international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague got underway on Thursday at the city’s Výstaviště grounds, featuring over 400 exhibitors from 22 countries. I spoke to Radovan Auer, the head of Book World Prague and asked him to tell me more about this year’s main topics, comics and the revolutionary 20th century.
The legendary comics Rychlé Šípy, or Rapid Arrows, by Jaroslav Foglar are making a comeback. Albatros is set re-publish all of the major works by the late writer and youth movement activist, including some previously unreleased texts. The edition is being prepared in cooperation with the Scout Foundation of Jaroslav Foglar.