Czech reading marathon goes worldwide


Next week, from the 25th to the 29th of May, the sixth annual "Nonstop Reading" literary marathon will take place all over the world. Organised by the group Jazz Section-Artforum and the Czech Centres, this year's event is dedicated to former Czech president Vaclav Havel. The readings will begin in Prague, and will continue in Czech Centres all over the world and at the United Nations building in New York. My colleague Dean Vuletic spoke to former dissident Karel Srp, the head of Jazz Section-Artforum, and asked him how "Nonstop Reading" started:

"It started in 1998, when I came up with the mad idea of reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti for three days and three nights... Perhaps Lawrence Ferlinghetti because he belonged to the American intellectuals who signed a protest letter to the former president of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Gustav Husak, asking to let us out of prison. It was a great group of writers: Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, Albee, Doktorow, Ginsberg. It was almost two hundred of the most famous and most vocal Americans names, and that is why I thought of Lawrence Ferlinghetti - because we like him and because of this as well."

How do you choose the books each year? Who decides what will be read each year?

"We decide that here at the Jazz Section-Artforum. The first year it was Lawrence Ferlinghetti nonstop, the second year it was Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and the third it was Josef Skvorecky nonstop. And the later years were dedicated to the Jazz Section, which signifies freedom of creation, and as a tribute to Czech and Slovak literature. And this year, for the first time, it will be called "Life in Truth," a homage to Vaclav Havel. We didn't want to do that while he was president, because we wanted to recognise him as a writer. It is significant that this year diplomats from the United Nations will take part, and that is being held under the auspices of the president of the 57th General Assembly Jan Kavan, who helped with this event very much."

Will Vaclav Havel be reading this year?

"Vaclav Havel will definitely be coming here on Sunday, 25th May. Whether he will read or not I don't know, but you never know with him, and surprises can't be ruled out."

If you would like to find out where the "Nonstop Reading" literary marathon will be taking place in a city near you, take a look at the event's website,