Mgdalena Kozena

In this week's edition you can learn who won the best literary translation award this year and why the prize is awarded around the end of September. Also, the famous Zikmund bell at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral rings again after three months of silence. The Czech Republic mourns the death of a leading children's film maker Milos Macourek. Czech soprano Magdalena Kozena gives a series of benefit concerts to raise money to help flood victims; one of the afected institutions is Prague Architecture Archive which is calling for help to save its unique collection.

Josef Jungmann Prize for best translation

Translators and interpreters the world over mark September 30th as their day, the day when their patron saint, St Jerome died in Bethlehem from a long illness in the year 420. Saint Jerome settled in a monastery in Bethlehem in 386, and there he translated the Old and New Testaments from Hebrew into Latin. Jerome's translation became known as the Vulgate. His version was recognized eleven centuries later by the Council of Trent as the official version of the Bible. Around September 30th or Jerome's Day, the Czech association of literary translators, the Translators' Guild, awards their special prize for the best translations of fiction into Czech. The Josef Jungmann Prize was established in 1991, named after the 19th century Czech linguist, historian, poet, and translator. Hana Linhartova is the chairman of the Czech Translators' Guild:

The Translators' Guild which was founded in 1990, systematically follows literary translations published in the Czech Republic and in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and the Czech Literature Foundation awards the annual Prize and a number of awards of merit to best translations of the year.

Last week, at a ceremony at the picturesque Palffy Palace in Prague's Mala Strana district, the main prize was awarded to Eduard Hodousek for his translation of "La Regenta", a novel by the 19th century Spanish author Leopoldo Alas. Among the shortlisted this year, there were a number of winners from last years, which according to the jury, proves that there is a steady core of excellent translators who guarantee a high standard of Czech literary translation. Those names include Pavel Dominik, Jiri Reynek, Miloslav Ulicny and Zuzana Stastna. On the other hand, the arrival of a free market economy and a high demand for foreign literature after the fall of communism brought a lot of amateurism into the business and various unscrupulous publishing practices combined with dilettantism on the part of the translator. Therefore the Translators' Guild started a tradition of an annual Worst Achievement Prize, which enjoys considerable publicity and is awarded at the spring Book Fair in Prague.

Film-maker Milos Macourek dies at 75

Milos Macourek,  photo: CTK
This little piicture is from an extremely popular TV bedtime cartoon series, Mach a Sebestova. To the great grief of many, young and old, its author Milos Macourek, died on Monday at the age of 75. Milos Macourek was one of the leading Czech filmmakers and writers. He wrote screenplays for popular TV comedies in the 1960s, but later shifted his focus to children's films. His cartoons and TV series from the 1970s and 80s were and still are adored both by children and their parents.

Zikmund's new iron heart

The famous Zikmund bell at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral rings again after three months of silence. In June, its clapper cracked and fell down. According to legend, the silencing of the Zikmund bell is an omen of national tragedy some saw the accident as a forewarning of the disastrous floods, which hit the Czech Republic in August. Last Friday, Zikmund got a new iron clapper: three metres long and weighing about 400 kilograms. It was cast in the workshop of bell-founder Petr Manousek, whose family has been caring for the cathedral's bells for decades.

"To achieve the same sound, the clapper has to have the same size and shape as the original. Otherwise, it would spoil the sound of the bell, and of course, the shape and weight of the clapper have a bearing on the function of the bell, too. If something didn't fit, the bell wouldn't ring at all."

17-tonne Zikmund is not only the biggest of the four bells at the St. Vitus Cathedral but also the biggest bell in the Czech Republic. Last time its clapper broke was in 1670, about 120 years after it was cast. The clapper or heart as it is called in Czech that broke in June was fitted during repairs more than a century ago. Experts who examined it after its failure said they discovered faults in it that must have been there since it was installed.

Soprano Kozena sings in London to raise money for flood victims

On Monday, Czech opera singer Magdalena Kozena gave a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall with the European Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The concert was a fund-raiser to help victims of the devastating floods that hit the Czech Republic in August. I believe music motivates people to do good things, the famous soprano said after the concert. All the money collected will go to the Czech government's flood repairs account.

The concert featured arias by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart which he devoted to Prague, as well as Czech music represented by Antonin Dvorak. Some of the manuscripts of Mozart's arias were also damaged by the catastrophic floods.

Magdalena Kozena is very popular in Britain. Over the past year, she won two prestigious prizes for her renditions of classical music. Kozena is planning another benefit concert to take place in Paris on October 11.

Help Save the Prague Architecture Archive!

And talking about floods, a unique cultural treasure, the Prague Architecture Archive was severely damaged by the disastrous floods in August. As an unrivalled archive of 19th and 20th century European architecture, it has in its 90-year history amassed over 200 collections that amount to some half a million drawings, plans, photographs, documents and models. No other institution has successfully assembled so many materials from major figures such as Kotera, Gocar, Feuerstein and many others.

During the floods, the water in the building reached a height of 3.5 metres and 90 percent of the archive's holdings were swamped. Fortunately, most of the items were successfully removed and deep-frozen with the intention of restoring them at a later a date. Restoration and storage facilities now need to be established so that this irreplaceable part of Europe's cultural heritage can be saved. However, the restoration will take many years and will come at a cost far greater than any of the archive's sponsoring institutions can meet.

The archive is calling on scholarly institutions, architects, restorers and other concerned persons worldwide for financial, material and professional assistance to help save the Prague Architecture Archive.

The Czech Centre in London has established the following account to receive contributions: Account #80236004/20-17-74 Barclays Bank, 212 Regent Street, London W1A 4BP

Cheques can be made payable to Czech Centre SOS Archive, and mailed to: Czech Centre London 95 Great Portland Street London W1W 7NY

For further information call Tomas Zykan at the Czech Centre London on +44 (0)207 291 9921, or see