Ema Destinnova

In Mailbox this week: a Czech version of "O Holy Night", Ema Destinnova's whereabouts in 1929, Czech women's family names, Jiri Sulc's new novel. Listeners quoted: Jay Ham, Vernon Snyder, John Searight, Stephen Hrebenach, Steve Sherdley.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox, wherever you are listening to us. It's good to know that you are out there - because your e-mails from around the world never cease coming. This one arrived from Atlanta, from our listener Jay Ham.

"Hello Radio Prague! I don't write in often, but I want to say thanks for the special from Friday the 28th. The story about Sir Winton and the Munich agreement was very good and pretty in depth. Also the story in Magazine about Heiko [the baboon]! Man, he is my hero. Thankfully he's safe. And finally this crazy happening at the Rudolfinum concert hall. I thought classical music people were like sophisticated or something. Too funny... To all the staff of the English Service, thanks for producing good shows on a shoestring budget. And have a nice October."

Thank you, too, and I must say October has so far been treating us kindly. But colder days are ahead and some of our listeners are apparently already thinking about Christmas. This is from Vernon Snyder from the US.

"Do you have the Czech lyrics for 'O Holy Night' and if you know of any place I can hear it in Czech, I would appreciate if you would let me know where."

The Czech name of this carol by the French composer Adolphe Adam is "Dny zazraku a prani" and it is sung by the Czech pop legend Karel Gott.

Just for your information, the best-known Czech Christmas carols can be found on our website, recorded five years ago by the Radio Prague Choir. You can also find the scores and lyrics there.

John Searight from the US sent us this query:

"I would be very grateful if you could let me know the names of Ema Destinnova's brothers, and the address she lived at in January 1929."

All I could find is that Ema was the eldest of five children born into a well-to-do Prague family. He father, Emanuel Kittl, was a brewery owner and also a mining entrepreneur. Ema Destinnova died in Ceske Budejovice on the 28th of January, 1930. In the year 1914 or 1916, according to some sources, she bought a castle in the town of Straz nad Nezarkou in South Bohemia where she resided until her death. But whether Ema Destinnova was staying at her castle in January 1929 I was unable to find.

Stephen Hrebenach from the United States:

"I recently heard that there was consideration of reversing a law in Slovakia that requires the suffix -ova to be added to a woman's family name. I did not realize that it is a law. Is the same true in the Czech Republic? I had always thought that it was just tradition, and not something that was a legal matter. Can you explain the origins of women using -ova in many parts of central and eastern Europe?"

The suffix -ová is a variant of the possessive suffix -ova. So a woman's surname is derived from her husband's or father's surname only with the added suffix. So if someone is called Novak, his daughter or wife will be Novakova. If a man's surname is technically an adjective, the female version behaves like a normal adjective in the feminine gender. So Mr Novy's wife is called Nova. Some Czech surnames do not change for grammar reasons. Mr Janku's wife is Mrs Janku, and also traditionally foreign surnames ending in vowels do not change and do not have to under current legislation. It is very similar in Slovak but slightly different in Russian, where the suffix -ova is the feminine counterpart of the masculine suffix -ov, both being possessive adjectives.

Steve Sherdley from the United Kingdom asked this question:

"Could you tell me if there is an English version of Jiri Sulc's new novel 'Two Against the Reich' as mentioned on your website? If so, where can I buy a copy?"

I'm afraid no English edition of that book is available even though the author originally did write the book in English but as he could not find a publisher he put it out in Czech instead.

And that's all the listeners' questions we have time for today. Before I say good-bye, let me repeat our October competition question once again.

Our mystery man was born in Prague on October 5th, 1781. He was a learned man, a Catholic priest but also a mathematician, theologian, philosopher and logician. As a lecturer at Prague University he was known for his antimilitaristic views. His views were seen as too liberal by the authorities and he was dismissed from the university and exiled to the countryside. His works had not been fully published until the middle of the 20th century.

Please send us your suggestions by the end of October. We await your answers as well your reception reports, questions and comments at [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099, Prague. Thanks for listening and till next week bye-bye.