Non-fiction examination of Czech society’s ills lands literary prize

Erik Tabery, photo: CTK

The prestigious Magnesia Litera Award for the Czech book of the year has gone to a work called Opuštěná společnost or Abandoned Society by journalist Erik Tabery. Prizes in six other categories were also handed out at Wednesday’s awards in Prague.

Erik Tabery,  photo: CTK
After a four year break, the main prize Magnesia Book of the Year has once again gone to a work of non-fiction. The book essay by Erik Tabery, a long-time editor-in-chief of the weekly Respekt, is subtitled ‘The Czech Journey from Masaryk to Babiš’ and describes the dangers Czech society is facing from newly emerged populist leaders.

According to Tabery, the title ‘Abandoned Society’ refers to the state of current Czech society, which, he says, is lacking the clear vision it used to have under the presidencies of Czechoslovak founder Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk or later under Václav Havel.

This is what the author said when he was handed the main prize:

“My book is called Abandoned Society and I wrote it to make society less abandoned. I tried to find some sources of inspiration, and I think there a lot of them. There are many people who have experience from the past.

Marek Švehla,  photo: CTK
“I would like to thank the people I often meet as a journalist who are working on making our society less abandoned. They are politicians, but also people helping those on the edge of the society, and I think their work should really be acknowledged.”

In his book, released by Paseka publishing house, Tabery claims the Czech Republic has not succeeded in fulfilling its vision of returning to Europe, and it also lacks any clear plan for the future.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Tabery said he drew on the themes he encountered over the years of working as a journalist and decided some of the themes and topics deserved to be explored in greater detail.

The Book of the Year was not the only award for the weekly Respekt. Tabery’s colleague Marek Švehla won the Discovery of the Year for his book ‘Magor a jeho doba’ or ‘Magor and His Era’, an autobiography about one of the legends of the Czech underground movement during the 1970s and 1980s, Ivan Martin Jirous.

Josef Pánek,  photo: CTK
The closely watched Magnesia Litera for best work of prose went to Josef Pánek’s novel ‘Láska v době globálních klimatických změn’ (‘Love in the Time of Global Climatic Change’). The unconventional travelogue set in India and Iceland is the first novel of the author, who is a molecular genetics scientist by profession.

Magnesia Litera, which is the main prize-giving event for Czech literature, was established in 2002. Prizes in six other categories were also handed out at Wednesday’s awards ceremony at Prague’s New Stage of the National Theatre, including the Best Translation, which went to Radvan Markus for this translation of the Irish novel The Churchyard’s Soil.