Read Around the World: Czech Republic
The next stop on our world tour of reading is the Czech Republic! This month’s choice was inspired by my recent trip to Prague along with my recent bout of reading Czech authors. Prague was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. I was also fortunate enough to have time to visit a few locations outside of Prague including Český Krumlov in the Southern Bohemian Region and Terezín, the sad location of a concentration camp. I hope you enjoy some of my photos (at the bottom of this post). Next week, I’ll continue the Czech theme with our featured author post: Kafka.
Fun Facts about the Czech Republic:
- Once part of the Great Moravian Empire, the country consists of the regions of Bohemia and Moravia.
- The Czechs are highly educated population with 90% of the population completing at least secondary education – the highest score in the EU.
- They are the world’s heaviest consumers of beer per capita. Beer has been brewed in the Czech Republic since 1118.
- Czech Republic has over 2,000 castles, keeps, and castle ruins — a remarkable density that causes many of refer to it as the castle capital of the world. The Prague castle is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ancient castle in the world by area.
- The Charles University in Prague is the oldest university in Eastern Europe, and one of the oldest in the world in continuous operation since 1348.
- Czech Republic was home to many literary greats including Franz Kafka, Jan Neruda, Jaroslav Hašek, Milan Kundera, Václav Havel, Bohumil Hrabel, and Ivan Klima.
Prague is clearly a book lover’s paradise. One of my favorite parts of my trip was the discovery of two amazing English language bookstores. I picked up a couple Kafka books (appropriate for the location), a DeLillo, and a copy of Ecco’s The Prague cemetery. The second store was deceptively small on the outside…
but inside was packed from floor to ceiling with books.
And downstairs was even better with more books and cute reading nooks.
So to celebrate our travels to the Czech Republic, I selected a book by Klima.
Book Selected:Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light by Ivan Klíma
Published in: 1993
Find it here: Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light
Reason Selected: I have featured this book before in an earlier 1001 review, but I think it’s worth reiterating that it is a book worth reading. I selected it because it is set during and after the Velvet Revolution, a period of Czech history that was repeatedly mentioned to me by various people during my travels.
Synopsis (from GoodReads): Pavel is a middle-aged man, a once-promising, award-winning documentary filmmaker, who is forced to survive by working as a cameraman for the state-run television station under Czechoslovakia’s repressive regime. He dreams of one day making a film—a searing portrait of his times—that the authorities would never allow. When the communist regime collapses, Pavel finds himself unprepared for the new world of supposedly unlimited freedom, and unable to make the film he has always wanted to make. His dilemma—that of a man choosing between the ideals and temptations of freedom—informs every sentence of this important novel.
Jen’s Review: ★★★★ You can read my full review of this book here. This was a rather complicated read in terms of the novel’s structure, but it is one worth the effort. Very European in its approach to philosophical and political questions, the novel is an interesting glimpse at the life of ordinary people living during a time of transition and turmoil. Many of the Czech people I met during my trip discussed (unsolicited) the impacts of communism on their country. Klima captured many of the themes along with a wonderful depiction of the atmosphere of the time.
Klíma’s writing was banned for many years in Czechoslovakia due to his overtly political and social commentary. In 1941 he and his family were sent to Terezin concentration camp. He and his parents survived the concentration camp and Klíma later wrote about his life in the memoir My Crazy Century.
Try it for yourself. Find it here: Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light
We want to hear from you. Have you read any literature from Czech authors or set in the Czech Republic? Do you have any recommendations? Share your thoughts with us!