Sir Tom Stoppard

Today in Mailbox: We reveal the mystery man from our December 2006 competition and announce the four lucky winners. Later in the programme, you will find out the new quiz question for January. Listeners quoted: Bogdan Stoican, Colin Law, Gordon Martindale, Annette Harris, Vijay Khanna, Colin Rose, Teodor Shepertycki, Mary Lou Krenek.

Welcome to Mailbox. Happy New Year! Thank you very much for all those New Year's greetings and we hope you will keep listening in 2007, too. Today being the first Sunday of the month, it is time to disclose the mystery man from our December competition. We wanted you to tell us the name of the British playwright and screenplay writer who was born in 1937 in what is now the Czech Republic and was knighted in 1997. The correct answer is not Andrew Lloyd Webber, nor Paul Wilson but rather...

"The answer to this month's question is Sir Tom Stoppard (born Tomas Straussler on July 3, 1937). He is a distinguished playwright but his work also includes radio (where he started his career), television and movies. He is an activist for human rights, as well. He's a brilliant human being and it's just impossible to define this in a couple of sentences."

A correct answer there from our listener Bogdan Stoican. This one came from Colin Law from New Zealand.

"To escape from World War II in Europe the family moved to Singapore in 1939 and then to India in 1941 when it became clear that Singapore was in danger. After Tom's father was killed in Singapore his mother married a British officer and Tom Straussler became Tom Stoppard. They moved to England in 1946 where Tom attended schools in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire."

Gordon Martindale from England wrote:

"The British Knight [...] is Sir Tom Stoppard. He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937, the son of Eugen Straussler, a doctor with the Bata Shoe Company. Both of his parents were non-practising Jews, however all his grandparents died in the Holocaust."

Annette Harris from the United States writes:

"Tom Stoppard has written many plays including 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'. He also collaborated on the screenplay for 'Shakespeare In Love'. I enjoy doing the research for the monthly questions and am happy to receive the news from the Czech Republic each day via e-mail."

Vijay Khanna from India wrote:

"One of his more recent plays is 'Indian Ink' (1995) in which he examines British Rule in India from both sides. He has also played an active role in human rights issues. He met the then dissident Vaclav Havel during his visit to Czechoslovakia in the 1970's and worked on getting his works translated into English. He was knighted in 1997."

Colin Rose from Britain sent us this answer:

"Perish the thought that TOM was knighted. But he was! He has an OM (order of merit) which is a very different thing - Far more valuable and untainted by the cash for honours that is a knighthood. Tom Stoppard is your Man."

And immediately another e-mail arrived from Colin:

"This is bizarre I had just sent you the answer to the quiz - I go down stairs to make a coffee and idly turn the radio on to hear - Tom Stoppard talking about being Czech on Radio 4!"

Our regular contributor Christine Takaguchi-Coates from Japan starts her answer in an unusual way:

"I am a romantic Englishwoman!! And this is the title of renowned playwright/screenwriter Tom Stoppard's first major screen credit, received in 1975 for his adaptation of Joseph Losey's 'The Romantic Englishwoman'."

This answer came from Teodor Shepertycki from Canada:

"I was fortunate enough to see one of his most highly acclaimed plays - 'The Real Thing' - here in Ottawa, Canada. His international reputation as a writer of 'serious comedy' manifests itself brilliantly in this play. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening! I could, of course, embellish this e-mail by detailing his life to date and listing all of his 'credits'. But, to what purpose? One can obtain it all by 'Googling' Tom Stoppard on the Internet. Suffice it to say, that his plays contain intellectual brilliance, moral complexity, and the most delicious wit."

And finally, Mary Lou Krenek from the United States had this to say:

"Sir Tom Stoppard became deeply interested in human rights in 1977 and met the then dissident playwright Vaclav Havel and translated some of his works. The Charter 77 Foundation created the Tom Stoppard Prize in 1983 for the purpose of recognizing and awarding authors of Czech origins."

Thank you very much for your answers and the time you put into the research. The lucky four who'll be getting Radio Prague goodie bags are: Annette Harris from the United States, Colin Rose from the United Kingdom, Vijay Khanna from India and Gordon Martindale from the United Kingdom. Congratulations, and your prizes are on their way.

All that remains is to announce a new competition question for January. We continue in our series of famous people of Czech origin and this time we would like to know the name of a Jesuit missionary, born in Brno, who worked as a botanist and pharmacist in the Philippines where he also died in 1706. Half a century later, the Swedish scientist Carl Linne named a genus of flowering plants after him in his honour.

Please send us your answers as usual to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, Czech Republic.