Literature sometimes makes for some unusual connections. What, for example, could Franz Kafka possibly have in common with the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland? To find the answer we start at the busy British Council office, just a couple of streets down from Czech Radio’s headquarters. Just after World War II, the British Council here was headed by Edwin Muir, who was born in 1887 in Orkney and grew up on the tiny island of Wyre. He is one of Scotland’s best known 20th century poets, but it is also quite possible that you will have
This week, Prague is hosting the fourth international Mene Tekel festival which highlights the crimes of communism and presents the testimonies of those persecuted by totalitarian regimes. On Thursday, the festival is screening a short Albanian documentary called Prison Nation, which describes one of Europe’s most vicious communist regimes. Radio Prague met with Tomor Aliko, a former Albanian political prisoner, whose powerful testimony is featured in the film.
A visit to Týn nad Vltavou offers much of what you would expect of a small South Bohemian town. The winding streets are full of locals in the morning, each one greeting the other, the buildings, mostly farmsteads, have a kind of rural hominess that whips up the nostalgia in you even if you’ve never been there before, the woods are full of aged artefacts - bridges and crosses in the middle of nowhere, say – and in the absence of any bustle you get the feeling that the church bell rings almost constantly.
Czech authorities recently granted permission to experts from Denmark’s Aarhus University to explore the grave of astronomer Tycho Brahe. The famous Danish-born scholar died in Prague in 1601 under suspicious circumstances. Peter Andersen, who has a theory linking Danish king Christian to the astronomer’s death, says research should be done in Denmark as well, and that the consequences could be far reaching.
Mene Tekel, Prague’s annual international festival against totalitarianism, opens in the Czech capital on Monday afternoon with a concert by Jaroslav Hutka and the Blue Effect band on Old Town Square. Now in its fourth year, the festival offers a week full of debates, films screenings and a number of rock concerts.
Lidové noviny, or People’s Newspaper, is a leading Czech paper with a tradition going back more than a century. The liberal daily was first discontinued by the Nazis during the war, and then banned by the communist authorities in the 1950s. But in 1987, a group of dissidents in Prague decided to launch a samizdat version of the respected newspaper. In this edition of Czechs Today, we talk to one of the founders of the samizdat Lidové noviny, and its first post-communist editor-in-chief, Rudolf Zeman.
Sixty-five-years ago, shortly after midday on February 14th, 1945, a fleet of 62 U.S. Air Force bombers dropped their deadly cargo on Prague in the mistaken belief they’d reached their intended target Dresden. A total of 701 civilians were killed and dozens of buildings – including Prague’s largest synagogue - were destroyed. As soon as the all-clear sounded a Red Cross photographer named Stanislav Maršál went out into the streets to document the aftermath; he was so traumatised by what he saw that he hid the photos away for sixty years. Now, five
Some of the earliest silver coins discovered in the Czech lands feature in a new exhibition that has just begun at the National Museum. Many were minted in Prague, and some were found during reconstruction work at Prague Castle. And, says the show’s curator, the coins were used in the buying and selling of slaves.
The Czech PEN club on Monday marked its 85th anniversary. Established in Prague just three years after the worldwide association of writers was founded in London in 1922, the Czech PEN club brought together some big names in pre-war Czech literature, including Karel Čapek, František Langer and Viktor Fischl. Today, the Czech PEN club carries on its mission of promoting freedom of speech, supporting oppressed writers in many countries around the world.