Why must everything in Prague be wax museums?
The Czech Republic is one of the richest (culturally) European nations. Prague has as much beauty as Paris, or Florence, or St. Petersburg (says me). Landlocked by Germany, Poland, Austria, and Slovakia, the Czech Republic has been called “the quintessential European city,” a characterization we must love if only for its silly meaninglessness.
Here are some everyday words and phrases in Czech:
A fazole, jednou prošla, je hrozná věc - na odpad!
“A kidney stone, once passed, is a terrible thing—to waste!”
Masculine singular past tense of navrátit, which means “to return,” a nickname for someone who had returned [perhaps from Naperville, or Tuscaloosa] to his native community after a prolonged absence.
Getting up to speed on the Czech Republic
We’ve heard of Czechoslovakia. It was one of the countries formed by “mutual consent” in the wake of WWI, which means, essentially, people called Czech and people called Slovaks merged into a single nation. The name “Czechoslovakia,” hence, makes perfect sense.
In the late sixties, Czech politicians and intellectuals, living under Soviet influence, wanted to reform the civic structure and create what they called "socialism with a human face." That movement was put down by Warsaw Pact troops. Anti-Soviet protestations were common until 1989, when the USSR collapsed (which, as Americans, we know happened because Ronald Reagan was half-human, half-god who will one day return and rapture us all into jingoism heaven.)
The so-called "Velvet Revolution" led to the so-called “Velvet Divorce.” On January 1, 1993, the “Velvet Divorce” created two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czech Republic jumped on the NATO bandwagon in 1999, and the European Union in 2004.
Czech their poetry out! (and other trite, wholly unimaginative homophones)
I’ve been able to locate this really good anthology of Modern Czech Poetry called Modern Czech Poetry, edited by someone named Paul Selver. Some really innovative and beautiful stuff is in this anthology, among them an introduction by Selver that at one point sums up Czech poetics with a credibility I could never have. He says
The Czechs are Slavs, and their poetry has all the impulsiveness, the music and the melancholy which are a common heritage of their stock. But the historical vicissitudes through which they have passed, together with the special influences to which they have been subjected as a result, have modified their national characteristics, just as their language is phonetically differentiated from that of kindred races. Thus, while their poetry is rich in the dreamy cadences and elegiac moods which are, so to speak, Pan-Slavonic manifestations, it also frequently sounds the notes of satire, defiance and rebellion. Again, the local conditions of life in Prague, with its sombre atmosphere of bygone glory, have produced a curious element of artificial romanticism, which finds its inspiration in the faded, the sinister and the aristocratic. These latter ingredients are to be met with especially in the verses of the Czech decadents, in striking contrast to the typical Moravian poets, whose fondness for bright colouring and quaint phraseology is due to the regional peculiarities of their native district.
By its geographical situation Bohemia has been more directly exposed to Western European influences than any other Slav country. In literature, and especially in poetry, the Czechs have shown a preference for French or Italian sources, and they have deliberately ignored the more immediate German models.
(Modern Czech Poetry, Paul Selver, ed. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. UK:1920. ASIN: B0006DAL5A)
Some of the more unique characteristics of Czech literary culture
In the second half of the 20th century the only authors who could be published were those who were “vetted” by the government. This produced a vibrant underground, where the talented writers hung out, but that’s not to say quality work wasn’t widely published and widely acclaimed in Bohemia, often by coming right to the edge of the restrictions, which itself became an art.
There was something called “Samizdat,” which became extremely popular as “...the clandestine copying and distribution of government-suppressed literature or other media in Soviet-bloc countries. Copies were made a few at a time, and those who received a copy would be expected to make more copies. This was often done by handwriting or typing (Krugosvet Encyclopedia).
There seems to be a pleasant prevalance of women writers in modern and contemporary Czech literature, especially when compared to other nearby countries.