An international marathon of readings from Czech and Slovak literature starts in Prague at 2 o'clock on Friday afternoon. Over the next 200 hours - that is more than 8 days - the reading will continue in a kind of global relay race, at 17 Czech Centres in different cities around the world. Alena Skodova has the details:
The marathon is the biggest presentation of Czech and Slovak literature in the world. It will last a total of 200 hours, and will involve some 800 readers. In foreign cities - which include London, New York, Moscow, Berlin, Paris and Brussels - the excerpts will be read in the language of the respective country. I spoke to one of the organisers, Karel Srp from the Czech Jazz Section music and literature group:
"There will be some 180 readers in Prague alone. I won't mention any names, because our slogan is that the non-stop readings from Czech and Slovak literature never has V.I.Ps - all the readers are equally important to us. But what's interesting is the fact that they have chosen excerpts from a wide range of 140 authors - and it'll be proper literature, not sci-fi or detective fiction. So I think Czech and Slovak literature will still play an irreplaceable role in attracting new, young readers."
Among the readers are names well known to the Czech public, including a number of famous actors. But political figures will also be involved, such as Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart and Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla. One of the readers in the Czech cultural centre in Paris is the famous French actress Annie Girardot.
Dr. Milan Sedlacek is the director of the Administration of Czech Centres:
"We joined the project when it was in its second year - at first we broadcast the readings from St. Salvatore's church on the Internet, but it's only this year that the event becomes international and will be held in all the 17 Czech centres throughout the world. There will be an 8-hour shift in each one, and the relay will be handed over from one to another, that means that if in one centre they finish the reading at 2 a.m., in the centre that's next in line, the reading starts exactly at the same time."
According to Mr. Srp, the main purpose of this non-commercial literary event is to promote knowledge of Czech and Slovak literature abroad. But he says it has also been designed to strengthen unity among Czech and Slovak ex-patriates living abroad and to entertain those people taking Czech and Slovak studies.