In a remarkable work of oral history, four students with the help of former dissident and award winning author Aleš Palán have produced a 270 page history of the events that took place in Prague on November 17, 1989. One of them is Alžběta Ambrožová, a 26 year old graduate of English and American Studies. She says that around 300 testimonies were collected through a mix of interviews and online questionnaires. I began by asking her about how people felt going into that watershed event in Czech history.
Prague’s historically working-class Žižkov district is perhaps best known today for its abundance of pubs (even by Czech standards) and colossal TV Tower – once voted the world’s second ugliest building. Lesser-known is the rich cultural history of what some natives proclaim the “Independent Republic of Žižkov”. Two of its proudest sons, Jaroslav and Miroslav Čvančara, have just published a sweeping illustrated book about the Prague 3 district, literally filling in the historical picture.
Václav Havel’s relationship to the United States is the focus of the recently issued book Havel v Americe (Havel in America) by historian Rosamund Johnston and journalist Lenka Kabrhelová. Mainly based on Q&A-style interviews, it contains insights and anecdotes from Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, both presidents Bush and a host of others and is the first publication to concentrate on the subject. When I met the authors, I first asked Johnston about the genesis of Havel v Americe.
Ondřej Sekora is perhaps best-known as the author of the beloved cartoon character Ferda Mravenec or Ferdy the Ant. But Sekora was more than just an illustrator and comics author. He was also a journalist, an amateur entomologist, and one of the first propagators of rugby in Czechoslovakia. The Moravian Museum in Brno will mark 120 years since Ondřej Sekora’s birth with an exhibition and a new monography.
In a book just out, the renowned Czech author and illustrator Renáta Fučíková tells the story of Czechs in North America. The idea to chronicle stories of Czech immigrants originated in Chicago, which is sometimes referred to as “the most Czech city” in the US. I met up with Renáta Fučíková at her studio in the Old Town district of Prague, where she was putting finishing touches on the final illustrations for her new book.
The National Library of Israel has started digitising a long-lost batch of archival materials, belonging to Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod. They include, among other things, Kafka’s personal diary and a notebook in which he practiced Hebrew. Israel received the missing documents from a Swiss bank in August after years of international searches and legal disputes over the author’s legacy.
After the end of the Second World War it was often very difficult to catch and bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice. Historian Vojtěch Kyncl from the Czech Academy of Sciences has written a new book called Beasts: Czechoslovakia and the Persecution of Nazi Criminals, which explores the Czechoslovak side of this endeavour. I began by asking him when the allies, including Czechoslovakia, first committed to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
‘Laydeez do Comics’ is an international organisation that promotes female comics artists and their work. I spoke with the co-founders of the Czech branch shortly after the publication of their new book Komiksodějky. This anthology of essays and interviews about the genre, its history and specific Czech development, features a wild, eclectic mix of comics and illustrations by local female comics authors, many of whom poke fun at stereotypes.
Brno’s Martin Reiner is an award-winning poet and novelist. He also works closely with some of the Czech Republic’s other leading writers as head of the publishing house Druhé město (Second City). Our tour of “his Brno” begins in the tree-lined district where Reiner grew up, Černá Pole, around half an hour’s walk from the centre of the Moravian capital.
Forgotten Czech net bag makes a comeback
Iconic Czech brands that survived competition from the West after the fall of communism
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Cold War “king of Šumava” story brought to life in new film by Irish director
Unions: Strike Wednesday will hit most Czech schools