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Václav Havel 1936 – 2011 – Dissident to the end

With evening falling and word of Václav Havel’s death already spread throughout the city, a line was forming in front of Prague’s Memorial of the student demonstrations of November 17th. Although the memorial itself is under cover people stood waiting outside under the winter’s first snow flurries to pay tribute to a man whose legacy […]

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Pushkins popping up like mushrooms

There I was, taking a perfectly innocent stroll through the woods, passing an overturned tree stump I had seen a thousand times before when I made out a shadowy figure lingering behind it, standing there suspiciously still. He looked Russian, though it was hard to tell because it was foggy and he had such a […]

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First flight of the Seagull

Today in Literature informs us that it was this day in 1896 that saw the premiere of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull in St. Petersburg. The opening bombed, in a large part because the audience came expecting a conventional farce rather than the type of wordy drama that Chekhov has become famous for. Although driven backstage […]

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19th century Polish manuscript found in Moscow

When I hear of looted cultural artifacts I think of the image of train cars stuffed with Old Master paintings and objets d’art steaming back in the opposite direction of equally packed troop trains. Then come accusations and bitter quarrels, pleas of national patrimony and then lawsuits and more lawsuits. In fact many of the […]

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Central Europe and its cities

Polish quarterly magazine Res Publica Nowa has published a special English-language issue “Central Europe as City.” Besides the editorials, there are five articles from the issue available online on the Eurozine website and they contain some fascinating information. Articles cover an array of topics – from the multicultural history of today’s Bratislava to the Jews […]

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Night of the Murdered Poets

On August 12, 1952 Yiddish literary culture received a fatal blow when novelist Dovid Bergelson and poet Peretz Markish were among 13 Soviet Jews murdered in Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison. The execution became known as the Night of the Murdered Poets, with three other poets also shot that night. The outcome of Stalin’s paranoid antisemitism was […]

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Anna Andreyevna Gorenko was born on June 23, 1889

Anna Andreyevna Gorenko was born on June 23, 1889. She went on to write some of the greatest poetry of the 20th century under the name of Anna Akhmatova. From “Requiem” ‘I arrive here as if I’ve come home!’ I’d like to name you all by name, but the list Has been removed and there […]

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A curious novel, Kafka’s Amerika

“A curious novel, Kafka’s Amerika: indeed, why should this young twenty-nine-year-old writer have laid his first novel in a continent where he had never set foot? This choice shows a clear intent: to not do realism; better yet: to not do a serious work. He did not even try to palliate his ignorance by research; […]

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Exile on a summer day

Following the opening day of a conference on “Scholars in Exile and Dictatorships of the 20th Century” being held in Prague, I trailed behind a group of international academics as they were carefully led the few blocks from the National Technical Museum to the hotel where “Welcome Drinks” were going to be served. It was […]

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Joseph Brodsky

On May 24, 1940 the great Russian poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad. And while the 71st birthday of the man who was viewed by many, including Anna Akhmatova, as pulling the country’s poetic tradition out of the Stalinist ashes may not be occasion for parades on the streets of Moscow or […]

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