Writer Ivan Klima wins Franz Kafka Prize

Writer Ivan Klima with his wife Helena, photo: CTK

The Franz Kafka literary prize, established last year, is the only international honour awarded in the Czech Republic to outstanding contemporary writers from around the world. Last year's winner of the Franz Kafka Prize was the American author Philip Roth. This year the jury chose Ivan Klima, a Czech writer whose books, such as "My Golden Trades", "Judge on Trial", "A Summer Affair", "Love and Garbage", "My First Loves" and "The Spirit of Prague" are known to readers the world over.

Writer Ivan Klima with his wife Helena,  photo: CTK
Ivan Klima, who survived the Terezin concentration camp and whose work was banned by the Communists, is today also known as an essayist and columnist. He has had an award-packed week; two days before the Franz Kafka Prize, Ivan Klima received a Medal for Outstanding Service to the Czech Republic from President Vaclav Havel. Although Ivan Klima has a number of foreign awards to his credit, the two honours he won this week are the first he has received in his home country. He values them both equally.

"Both in some way estimate my work. Even the state prize was for my literary merits, if I can say so. But I'm not used to getting prizes, for me it's something very extraordinary and I'm looking forward to my normal work."

Ivan Klima is one of the most widely-translated contemporary Czech authors. Some writers are known to be very particular about translations of their work. By contrast the 71-year-old author says he is quite lenient to his translators.

"I only get proofs of my English translations but my English in not on the right level. Sometimes I succeed in finding some misunderstandings but mostly I don't correct them. As for the other languages - there are really many, there are some languages in which I don't even understand the title because I don't know Japanese or Chinese. I have books allegedly written by me but I don't even know their title."