What should I read in international literature

1) Czech Books You Must Read

Kafka, Čapek, Kundera, Havel - these Czech authors are world-famous. But what about the other writers? Have they even been translated into other languages? In the bookstores in Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Paris or New York, do you find books by today's Czech authors in addition to classics such as “The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik”?

Radio Prag International therefore had the idea of ​​finding an answer to the question of which books were translated into world languages ​​(English, Spanish, French, Russian and German). At the same time, we want to make Czech literature a little better known to audiences abroad.

Therefore, our aim is to present the best and most popular works of classical Czech prose and poetry in an attractive way and at the same time to draw attention to interesting contemporary authors. And the local literature should also provide a picture of life in the Czech Republic.

How did the selection come about?

Among the books are those that just have to be a part of it. Every Czech knows Božena Němcová's “grandmother”. The book belongs to the canon of school literature and was also made into a film. It was not surprising that the work was translated into all possible languages. In the eyes of many, “The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik” portrays something like the Czech national character, the Schweik is well known as a phenomenon abroad. The book itself has been translated into 58 languages. In our selection, however, we have also based ourselves on a survey by the cultural broadcaster “Český rozhlas Vltava”. For the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, literary scholars and critics had nominated important prose and poetry works, from which the listeners then selected the one hundred best in their opinion. But not all of them have been translated into another language. Especially with the more recent works, we have relied on the recommendations of the Czech Center for Literature and the Czech Centers. They in particular have many years of experience when it comes to presenting Czech literature at forums or book fairs abroad.

Clichés and surprises

In our search for translations, we came across some interesting facts. For example, that the popularity of individual works differs greatly from country to country. This applies to the most well-known works (The Schweik is a cult book in Russia, for example, but only gourmets know it in England), but also more recent publications (Marek Šindelka is a real star in the Netherlands, although he hardly speaks any other language has been translated). In Poland, on the other hand, novels from the Czech Republic are published in such large numbers that any funding is superfluous. It is different in Germany, where, for example, the guest performance at the Leipzig Book Fair 2019 led to a translation boom. Recently, however, books have also become global bestsellers, which one would not have expected due to their close connection to the Czech Republic, including “Klapperzahns Wunderelf”.

From February we will start an overview of the Czech works that you definitely have to get to know and read. We believe that classics and contemporary books from the Czech Republic can also find enthusiastic readership abroad. You will find a small video for each book on our website in which the actor Roman Horak guides you through the work. In addition, we prepare discussions with experts, translators or authors who will provide you with the background to the texts. With our new series you are sure to spend exciting moments with Czech literature!