Martin Hilsky

The devastating floods in the Czech Republic in mid-August caused enormous material damage, and the cultural sphere was not spared either. Although the Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal has asked the cabinet for 350 million crowns, it's extremely difficult to find financial means in the state coffers, and so only 10 million crowns have been allocated for repairing flood-affected historical monuments and other heavily damaged cultural assets. The total damage has been estimated in billions - by now, it's around 3 billion crowns, but this sum is not final. The main reason for this is the fact that in some areas, the water has not yet receded and further damage will occur only after winter frosts are over. Minister Dostal described the state of affairs in the sphere he administers as an emergency situation and fears that things cannot be put back to normal before the year 2004. The Ministry of Culture will be given a lower budget than originally planned, and as the preservation of historical monuments is a priority, less money will go to what is known as 'live culture' -that is theatre, film, literature and music.

Despite the capricious weather in July and floods in August, the Shakespeare Summer Theatre Festival at Prague Castle is proving immensely successful. For the fifth time Prague Castle has become a meeting place for lovers of Shakespeare's plays, Czechs and foreign tourists alike. The performances take place in the Old Burgrave's palace, and the tradition began back in the early 1990s, when president Vaclav Havel urged artists of all kinds to enliven his presidential seat, which in the era of Communist presidents was rather dull. The main attraction of this year is a premiere of King Lear, with a Czech actor who lives in America, Jan Triska, in the leading role, and Love's Labour's Lost after proving highly successful last year. I asked professor Martin Hilsky from the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, who has been translating all Shakespeare's plays, whether Love's Labour's Lost was difficult to translate regarding the fact that it was one of Mr. Hilsky's early translations? Last Saturday, a renowned Czech artist - painter, graphic artist and illustrator Vladimir Komarek, died at the age of 74. Vladimir Komarek did not rank among those artists who break up old traditions and whose work is only understood by the coming generation. Through his works he spread love for art and he gained admiration even from those who were not specialists in painting and visited art galleries just from time to time. His works always spread kindness. Mr. Komarek succeeded in addressing those who even today feel panic when looking at pictures by, say, Pablo Picasso. He learned glass-painting at a famous school of glass in the North Bohemian town of Zelezny Brod, then he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and finally at the School of Decorative Arts. Apart from being an artist he was also a teacher, popular for his ability to talk about art in simple words, so that everybody could understand what he wanted to say by his pictures. Although he always worked with realistic motives, these were conceived as dream visions. He liked metaphors and symbols, which made his pictures a kind of meditative works, all of which seemed to bring a positive message. In the 1960s he started to devote himself to graphic art and book illustration. Vladimir Komarek's works were presented at countless exhibitions, organized in all European countries except for Albania, in the United States and Kuwait. He was also a popular radio figure and wrote an autobiographic book, called My Journey from the Cradle to Crematorium.