This week I had the opportunity to visit a French brasserie here in the Czech capital, the site for the launch of a new Czech book about famous French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. Written by Jiří Žák, the new book examines Belmondo’s life and career. Mr Žák, an actor himself, explains that Belmondo’s films, from Pierrot Le Fou to The Man from Rio have always been held in high regard by many Czechs, part of a broader fascination with French culture which has a long tradition here.
New proposals by the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek will see the Czech national anthem being spruced up in time for a national holiday on September 28 - the day of Czech statehood. The changes are supposed to gently update the anthem and make it more “noble” and appropriate for the modern age.
For this week’s Czechs in History I’ve brought you somewhere rather special – one of my favourite places in the Czech Republic – Český Dub. And I’m sitting here at about 10 at night, exhausted after a hard week’s work, just about to go to sleep in the local museum, which is all rather scary and exciting because there are things like suits of armour downstairs, which I am hoping won’t come to life when I switch the lights out. And I owe this visit here to the fact that, tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with museum’s curator, Tomáš Edel, who is
The launch has just taken place in Prague of the Czech version of a novel looking at the Munich Agreement of 1938, when the UK and France gave the Nazis free reign to annex parts of Czechoslovakia. Written by Georges-Marc Benamou, The Ghost of Munich tells the story of the Munich conference from the point of view of the then French prime minister. The book looks set to be made into a film, directed by Miloš Forman and written by Václav Havel.
The Maharal Institute, a new Jewish studies centre dedicated to the 16th century rabbi, philosopher and scholar Yehuda Loew, opened in Prague on Thursday. Founded by the Prague Chabad Centre, the Institute aims to spread the legacy and the teaching of the great rabbi Loew, a legendary figure in the history of the Czech capital.
Christopher Harwood is a lecturer in Czech at Columbia University in New York. When I met him at his office on Columbia’s Upper West Side campus, we discussed Czech literature, the difficulties of learning Czech, and how Professor Harwood himself had become good enough at the language to teach it at one of the world’s leading universities.
Disaster struck the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in the US state of Iowa in June, when extreme flooding submerged the museum building. The damage caused to the building and its contents is thought to run into millions of dollars, and is expected to take years to repair. But the work should be made that little bit easier by a million-crown contribution from the Czech government which has just been announced. The museum’s director Gail Naughton has been in the Czech Republic over the last week to discuss the terms of the gift. I caught
‘Kde domov můj’ or ‘Where is my home’ is a song familiar to every Czech, whether he lives at home or abroad. It is the Czech national anthem. However, this particular arrangement is not what Czechs are used to hearing when the flag is raised during official events. The well-known Czech conductor and composer Varhan Orchestrovič Bauer, whose work has featured in a number of films, decided to revamp the anthem and liven it up a little.
The English language and international premiere of Václav Havel’s latest play Leaving takes place in London this Friday. It is part of a season focused on the former president’s work which is being organised in conjunction with London’s Czech Centre. I discussed the Havel season, and other highlights of this autumn’s programme, with the centre’s director, Ladislav Pflimpfl.
In this edition of Spotlight we visit Veltrusy Chateau, a gorgeous summer estate found north of the Czech capital. Founded in the 1700s by Czech nobleman Václav Antonín Chotek, Veltrusy is far from an obvious destination, but is well-worth a day-trip. The castle grounds boast a 300 hectare park along the Vltava River, with numerous paths leading among ancient trees to pavilions, a bridge or two and various monuments. Then of course, there is the chateau itself, highly valued as a gem of Baroque architecture.