What are an expat’s options when it comes to (not only) contemporary Czech literature?
Karolinum Press, part of the Charles University in Prague, prepares the Modern Czech Classics series. It cultivates contemporary translations of influential literary works into English (and other languages). These books had not been previously available to global readership due to censorship, the effects of Cold War or repetitive political disruptions in Czech publishing and its international ties.
A total of twelve books have been published since 2003, including paperback editions of books by Bohumil Hrabal (Rukověť pábitelského učně, Rambling On), Vladislav Vančura (Rozmarné léto, Summer of Caprice), Zdeněk Jirotka (Saturnin), Karel Poláček (Bylo nás pět, We Were a Handful), and Jaroslav Hašek (Velitelem města Bugulmy, Behind the Lines) published this year.
You might not know these names but ask your Czech friends: they do. If you want to get a taste of Czech literature style, any of these would be a good place to start.
In Brno, a publishing house that focuses on unique works of fiction by contemporary Czech authors in English has been established recently. Pálava Publishing has brought out two titles in the Czech Fiction Series – Irena Dousková’s bestseller Hrdý Budžes (B. Proudew, translated by Melvyn Clarke) and Martin Fahrner’s novel Steiner aneb Co jsme dělali (The Invincible Seven, translated by Andrew Oakland).
At the Brno Expat Centre we have a few of these Czech literary works (Rambling On; Be Proudew; The Invincible Seven; Rustic Baroque) as well as books on the Czech Republic and Brno (The Czechs in the Nutshell; Brno in Seven Chapters). If you’d like to borrow one, just pay us a visit.
Do you know there is a second-hand English bookshop in Brno? Have a look at the Hattie’s English Bookshop Facebook page or browse in person at a vintage toy shop Husákovy děti (Křížová 4). There is also a group for Book lovers in Brno.
Visit the newly-opened Dlouhá Punčocha – Long Stocking bookshop: either their website or their shop close to Česká.
Or you can join a session of the Multilingual Book Club for Kids: “A Proč?”. They are organised by an expat and you will get to read stories in various languages (English, Spanish and Czech so far) and create art and crafts related to them
English book clubs
If you’d like to discuss literature with like-minded people, you can attend one of The Brno Book Club meetings. Each month they choose a book (no longer than 400 pages) to read and talk about in English.
Similar meetings are also held by the Moravian Library (Kounicova 65a). At the Reading Group you will discover the diversity of contemporary English-written literature. The monthly meetings are held in English and you can borrow the book at the Foreign Libraries.