Novelist and essayist Mark Slouka, a guest author at the ongoing Prague Writers’ Festival, was born in New York to Czech refugees who never should have married but stayed together for nearly half a century. For a time, their chaotic lives, often distorted to tell a greater truth, provided rich fodder for his fiction. When both were gone – his father dead, his long-estranged mother suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s – he found the courage to search for the true story behind her “descent into madness”. The Czech version of the resulting memoir,
Infinite Dance is the fifth and most fully realised LP yet from the Prague guitar-based group Please the Trees. The new record, which was part recorded in San Francisco, features no less a guest than US singer-songwriter John Grant on one song, while ex-Swans man Thor Harris plays marimba on a couple of tracks.
Ahead of the Day of Czech Statehood on September 28th, special screenings of the silent film “Svatý Václav” (Saint Wenceslas), accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of Prague, are taking place at the grandiose Municipal House, the very site of the proclamation of the Czechoslovak Republic one hundred years ago.
Rehearsal for Truth is a weeklong theatre festival dedicated to Václav Havel that gets underway in New York on Tuesday. Alongside plays and stage readings, it will also see the presentation of a human rights award and the unveiling of a new bust of the dissident turned president at Columbia University. I discussed the festival, which is focused on Central European theatre, with organiser Pavla Niklová of the Václav Havel Library Foundation.
The Prague composer of Jewish descent, Hans Krása, wrote Brundibár using Adolf Hoffmeister’s libreto as early as 1938. Sadly however, the opera only became famous once it premiered in Terezín on September 23rd 1943. Krása himself studied the opera with small jewish children after being deported to Terezín. Here it was performed more than 50 times.
A sculptor tasked with reconstructing the communist era pylon in front of the National Museum’s New Building has discovered old documents which show the monument’s author, Czech architect Karel Prager, dedicated it to Jan Palach, who set himself alight and died in 1969, in protest of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The museum is now considering restoring the original memorial.
Earlier this year the young piano virtuoso Tomáš Kačo performed for the first time at New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. It was the fulfilment of a long-held dream for the 31-year-old, who comes from a large Romany family in a small Czech town and was a youth prodigy before seizing a life-changing chance to study in the US. I caught up with Tomáš Kačo when he was visiting Prague last week from his home in LA. My first question: When was he first exposed to music in a meaningful way?