Faced by an acute labour shortage, the Czech government is looking to attract more foreign workers and streamline the processing of issuing work permits. In recent years, the country has in particular turned to Ukraine to help fill the gap. The government wants to do the same for workers from EU hopefuls such as Montenegro, Moldova and Serbia, as well as India and other Asian countries.
Linguists from countries including China, Japan and France have gathered in Prague to attend the annual Susanna Roth Award, which gives young translators interested in Czech the opportunity to network and learn more about contemporary Czech literature. This year contestants were given the task of translating a selected text from the recent book I Wake Up in Shibuya written by critically acclaimed author Anna Cima.
Animator Gene Deitch settled in Prague almost 60 years ago and directed Tom and Jerry and Popeye cartoons behind the Iron Curtain for the US market. The small number of other Americans who moved here in the communist period were one subject we discussed in the second half of an extensive interview. But I began by asking Deitch about the time the great folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger, a good friend of his, visited Czechoslovakia in 1964.
Gene Deitch, who turns 95 next month, is by some distance the US citizen longest resident in Prague. Deitch had run a successful animation studio in New York prior to the fateful meeting in 1959 with his future wife Zdenka that led him to settle in Prague soon after. From behind the Iron Curtain, he produced an Oscar-winning animated short, as well as directing Tom and Jerry and Popeye cartoons for the American market.
New York-based Alex Zucker is one of the most highly-regarded translators of Czech literature into English and works regularly with leading writers such as Jáchym Topol and Petra Hůlová. When we spoke on a park bench in Manhattan in late September, the conversation took in Zucker’s time in Prague in the early 1990s, his long relationships with authors and his criteria for choosing projects. But first he told me how he had started translating Czech literature – via an interest in human rights.
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.
Joy Bellefontaine is Acadian French and proud of it, but having married a Czech husband and living in the Czech Republic for nearly 20 years she admits her family’s Christmas contains a mix of local and Acadian traditions. Tom McEnchroe, visited her to find out how foreigners living in the country celebrate their Christmas.