Literary roundup: Prague blackened and goldened, Dutch lit in Budapest

As noted in the preview of Book World Prague 2014, the 2014 Jiri Theiner Award was given to historian Peter Demetz. Index on Censorship has an article on it though it’s more about the background of the award. (The article was written by Pavel Theiner, the son of the award’s namesake, and he quotes himself in it, in the third person, which seems like a strange thing to do.)

I was there and heard Demetz speak about his family’s background and experience of the Holocaust as well as his own emigration. My favorite part was when he spoke about his reasons for writing Prague In Black And Gold. He said that in the 90s a whole generation of American students came to Prague for the whole “Paris in the 20s” thing (he was speaking in Czech, so he didn’t really say “thing” but it’s what he meant). He said how they lived contentedly, spoke about Kafka and Havel and then came back home.

He wrote the book, he said, to fill out this incomplete picture as well as an antidote to the whole overblown magical Prague cliché.

I looked around myself and realized if anyone was going to defend these poor Americans of the 90s it could only be me, as I was their only representative in attendance. Bad luck for them/us. I didn’t feel like defending anybody, particularly as this description didn’t fit my group of friends. We might have spoken about Kafka a couple of times but otherwise our conversations weren’t quite in the Havel/”Power of the Powerless” realm. If he considers the Kafka+Havel-mentioning crowd as superficial then I’m truly grateful he never overheard my friends at I at The Derby or Konvikt Café.

Café Amsterdam

International festival of Dutch literature, Café Amsterdam, will take place in Budapest for the first time, running from May 29-31. At Hungarian Literature Online there is an interview with festival organizer Mireille Berman, who discusses the makeup of the festival as well as the situation of Dutch literature abroad (positive, according to her – “[Herman] Koch is our Stieg Larsson”) as well as specifically in Hungary.

Among the writers participating in the festival are Hungarians Péter Esterházy, György Spiró and György Dragomán while Dutch authors attending are Arnon Grunberg, Douwe Draaisma, Barbara Stok, Frank Westerman and Toine Heijmans along with German writer Timur Vermes, American graphic novelist Ben Katchor and the English Booker prize winner DBC Pierre.

Photo – from Hungarian Literature Online

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2 Comments on “Literary roundup: Prague blackened and goldened, Dutch lit in Budapest”

  1. Luca C.
    18/02/2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Hi, I am a linguistics lecturer in Charles University and I’ve been looking for cafe Derby quite for some time, after reading about it in Jakobson’s memoir. Where is it? This article mentioning the cafe just two years ago gives me a whole new hope that the cafe still exists!

  2. 18/02/2016 at 7:25 pm #

    Hi, sorry to disappoint you but The Derby I mentioned was a bar very popular with expats in the early 90s. There were Russians there but I’m not sure they were working on linguistic theories! I do think Jakobson lived in the same neighborhood though so maybe there was a connection but vague at best and anyway the bar closed a long time ago.

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