CZECH AND SLOVAK LITERATURE TO TAKE A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD
From May 31 until June 8 a non-stop public reading event devoted to Czech and Slovak literature will take place at a succession of venues around the globe. The event, begun five years ago, has become the largest of its kind in the world. It is organised by the Czech-Slovak Jazz Section-Artforum, which last year celebrated its thirtieth anniversary of promoting independent cultural activities -- during the communist era in spite of considerable obstruction from the authorities. The head of the Jazz Section Karel Srp talked to the editor of Czech Dialogue Eva Strizovska about the event.
The non-stop reading will be in the form of an international relay. It will start in Prague at 2 p.m.on May 31 and after about eight hours will move on to Bratislava, and then to Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Moscow, Kiev, Warsaw, Dresden, Berlin, Stockholm, New York, London, the Hague, Brussels, Paris, possibly Madrid, then Munich, Vienna, and back to Prague. Anyone can apply to read and should contact one of the Czech Centres, which are co-ordinating the event, in the country of their choice, or the Jazz Section (Valdštějnská 14, 118 00 Praha 1). Each reader will have 15 minutes and will be able to choose any piece of Czech or Slovak literature either in the original or translated into any language. All participants will be awarded a commemorative poster with their own photograph. The event, which is sponsored by the Czech Foreign Ministry and its Slovak counterpart, aims to raise the international profile of Czech and Slovak literature and to encourage contacts between Czech emigrants in various different countries.
Srp says that linking up the Czech Centres for the event by Internet will be technically demanding. The readings will be broadcast over the Internet on the address: www.nonstopczech.cz, www.nonstopczech.com Srp hopes that they will also be broadcast on some other addresses. More information about the event can be found on www.czechcenter.cz.
Some of the cities will get daytime slots while others will keep the literary torch going through the night. However, according to Srp, in previous years some of the best attended sessions have been those around midnight. On one occasion, Srp says, around 50 million people listened -- over the Internet -- to a reading of Skvorecky in Swahili. The most read authors last year were Vaclav Havel and poet Jaroslav Seifert.
Czech public TV and Slovak private TV channel Markiza plan to film some of the readings this year and several radio stations are planning coverage of the event.
Karel Srp first came up with the idea of a continuous reading five years ago when the Jazz Section wanted to invite American poet Lawrence Ferlingetti to a festival in Prague. In the 1980s Ferlingetti had signed a protest to the Czechoslovak Communist government calling for the release of some members of the Jazz Section, including Srp, who had been imprisoned for involvement in organising cultural activities not approved of by the regime. At the festival the readings from Ferlingetti's works was begun by Ferlingetti himself and continued for three days and three nights by a succession of other readers. The idea of a reading devoted to one author took hold and subsequent years were devoted to Russian author Alexander Solzenitzyn and Czech author living in Canada Jozef Skvorecky. In the first few years the readings took place in the draughty, but spiritually uplifting, venue of a church and each year between 150 and 300 different readers -- including leading Czech literary, artistic and public figures, but also ordinary people and even a homeless person -- took part in the three-day three-night marathons. During the reading of Skvorecky one couple were married, with Skvorecky and his wife acting as witnesses.
Translated and adapted from interview with Karel Srp by Ian Finlay
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