Paul Wilson’s translation of Bohumil Hrabal’s early stories, Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult, is published this month. (November 2015)


Kundera: Looking for the Joke

The Festival of Insignificance

by Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher
Milan Kundera is now eighty-six and may well have intended his latest novel, The Festival of Insignificance, his first in fifteen years, to be an expression of “vesperal freedom,” a striking phrase he (or perhaps his longtime translator Linda Asher) coined a few years earlier to describe the liberation some …

Václav Havel: What He Inspired

Václav Havel (center) at the Laterna Magika theater, Prague, on November 24, 1989, the day that the Communist Party’s leadership resigned. He is with, from left to right, Rita ­Klímová, who became the first post-Communist ambassador to the US; Alexander Dubček, who had been the Czechoslovak premier during the Prague Spring; and the music critic and broadcaster Jiří Černy, an important member of the Civic Forum’s coordinating committee.

Havel: A Life

by Michael Žantovský
Few people have been better positioned to write about Václav Havel than Michael Žantovský. He had known Havel since the mid-1980s, and was his press secretary, spokesman, and adviser for two and a half years, from early 1990 to mid-1992. During that time, he says, he spent more time with …

Adam Michnik: A Hero of Our Time

Adam Michnik receiving the 2010 Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award for public service from Václav Havel, Prague, Czech Republic, January 2011

An Uncanny Era: Conversations Between Václav Havel and Adam Michnik

edited and translated from the Polish and with an introduction by Elzbieta Matynia

The Trouble with History: Morality, Revolution, and Counterrevolution

by Adam Michnik, edited by Irena Grudzinska Gross, and translated from the Polish by Elzbieta Matynia, Agnieszka Marczyk, and Roman Czarny
When Adam Michnik was still a political prisoner following the crackdown on the Solidarity trade union in his native Poland in December 1981, Czesław Miłosz wrote a foreword to a volume of Michnik’s eloquent essays and letters from prison.1 In it, Miłosz invoked the example of Mahatma Gandhi and …

The Road to Rejection

Michael Ignatieff, then leader of the Liberal Party, campaigning in the Canadian federal election, St. John’s, Newfoundland, April 2011

Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics

by Michael Ignatieff
Michael Ignatieff’s eighteenth book sets out to tell a tale that, in its outlines, is almost mythic. A writer and intellectual at the pinnacle of his powers is approached by a trio of shadowy envoys from a former life. These “men in black,” as he somewhat ominously calls them, invite …

Notes from Underground

Ivan Klíma, Prague, 1996

My Crazy Century

by Ivan Klíma, translated from the Czech by Craig Cravens
Ivan Klíma belongs to the remarkable cohort of Czech writers and artists who came to the world’s attention in the 1960s and went on to produce some of their best work in the following two decades, either in exile or in conditions of heavy repression at home. They included people of formidable talent but wildly different temperaments, among them Josef Škvorecký, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal, Ludvík Vaculík, Pavel Kohout, Václav Havel, Miloš Forman, and many others not as well known abroad. My Crazy Century is the most extensive autobiography of a member of this extraordinary generation yet to appear in English.

Kicking the Germans Out of the East

Sudeten Germans being expelled from Czechoslovakia, 1945

Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War

by R.M. Douglas
If you have ever thought that the black hole of horrors that was World War II must by now have surrendered all of its ghastly secrets, perhaps it’s time to think again. A recent book by Colgate historian R.M. Douglas has opened, or rather reopened, yet another tortured and largely …

The Dilemma of Madeleine Albright

Václav Havel and Madeleine Albright at a Plastic People of the Universe concert, Washington, D.C., May 2005

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937–1948

by Madeleine Albright, with Bill Woodward
In early March 1998, after the massacre of over sixty Albanian Kosovars by a Serb “anti-terrorist” force at Prekaz, in Kosovo, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright issued a statement (she called it laying down “a marker”) outlining America’s position: “We are not going to stand by and watch the …