Czechast with Brian Goodman About The Nonconformists: American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain

Brian Goodman with his book

Brian Goodman is an author and an associate professor at Arizona State University. He has spent the past two decades immersed in a project that bridges American and Czech literary worlds, delving into the shadows of the Cold War.

Brian's book, "The Nonconformists: American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain," has been making waves since its publication last year by the prestigious Harvard University Press. The book has garnered acclaim for its insightful analysis and meticulous research, even earning high praise in venerable publications like the Times Literary Supplement.

But what makes Brian’s work truly remarkable is the depth of his research. He ventured into the heart of the Czech Republic’s past, spending countless hours in the communist secret police archives and interviewing writers and former dissidents in Prague to bring the stories of these writers to life in full detail. For example: Why did one the most significant American authors of the 20th century Philip Roth become interested in Prague?

"It's this curiousity about Franz Kafka that brings Philip Roth to Prague for his first visit in 1972."

 The Nonconformists: American and Czech Writers across the Iron Curtain | Photo: Harvard University Press

Brian’s book is literally packed with stories and famous names from both sides of the Atlantic and the Czecho-American intellectual exchange:

"You know, in retrospect, I followed my interests and obsessions. What I discovered was that there were not just individual stories to tell but also an overarching story to tell in this book that had not been told. Probably even more importantly for my own endurance, these stories captured so many of the things that I was interested in."

Plus, there is also a deep insight into the dissident history of Czechia during cold war and what made it different say from the Polish history, In Poland, where Catholic Church played crucial role:

"Why is the American Beat Generation in Czechoslovakia such an important institution for the dissent? This is very unusual!"

Czechast with Brian Goodman brings a fresh insight on a seemingly already well known and documented part of recent Czech history and the unique trans-Atlantic cultural exchange that took place between American and Czech writers and intelectualls.

Author: Vít Pohanka
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  • Czechast

    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.