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Nominations open for Czech literary prize

Nominations are now open for a writing award for people and organisations contributing to the profile of Czech literature around the world.

29 Nov 2013
BY PAVEL THEINER

Nominations are now open for a writing award for people and organisations contributing to the profile of Czech literature around the world.

The award,  set up to commemorate a former editor of Index on Censorship magazine, is presented at the Prague Book Fair in May. The prize was first awarded in 2011 with freedom of expression in mind, and is given to a person or an organisation outside of the Czech Republic contributing in a major way to the promotion and dissemination of Czech literature abroad. The winner is chosen by a five-person jury, and also receives a prize of £1000.  Nominations close on 15 February.

World of Books, which runs the annual Prague Book Fair, set up the literary award to commemorate George (Jiri) Theiner. He found his niche in England as Index on Censorship’s deputy editor in the 1970s and, following Michael Scammell’s departure, as the editor in the 1980s. George was held in high regard by writers and poets in Czechoslovakia not least because he worked tirelessly to publicise their fate and their work through translation into English. They included Vaclav Havel, Ivan Klima, Ludvik Vaculik, Bohumil Hrabal and others post 1968, or poets such as Miroslav Holub and Antonin Bartusek pre 1968.

The first recipient of the prize was Andrzej Slawomir Jagodzinski, a prolific journalist and translator of Czech literature into Polish who, from 1976 onwards, was closely involved in the Polish and Czech democratic opposition. After the collapse of the totalitarian regimes in central and eastern Europe he became the director of the Polish Cultural Centre in Prague.

The 2012 prize winner Ruth Bondy is a representative of the Czechoslovak pre WWII  generation of intellectual Jews who, like many others, was deported to Theresienstadt and subsequently to Auschwitz and, towards the end of the war, to Germany. She moved to Israel in 1948 and worked as a journalist on the Hebrew daily Davar. She taught journalism at the Tel Aviv University in the 1980s and 1990s. She has translated a diverse group of Czech authors into Hebrew (including Hasek and Hrabal) and written studies  centred on the fate of Czech Jews during the Holocaust.

Last year the prize was received by Paul Wilson, a journalist, literary critic and translator of many of Vaclav Havel’s works into English. He was closely associated with the persecuted band Plastic People of the Universe, as a result was thrown out of Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. He has remained a committed publicist of Czech causes and authors.

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