Kafka, Čapek, Seifert, Hrabal, Havel, Topol, Denemarková, Hůlová… these are just a few of the many world-famous Czech writers. In 1984, Jaroslav Seifert won the Nobel Prize in Literature ”for his poetry, which endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness, provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man”.
With one public library for every 1,971 Czechs, the country has four times more libraries per capita than the European average and ten times more per capita than America.
With the Czech Republic having the densest network of public libraries in the world, it is no wonder that Czechs are keen readers.
Additionally, to promote reading among children, librarians from Uherské Hradiště established the popular “Night with Andersen” program in 2000. On this particular night, children get to stay overnight at their libraries with programs full of reading, games and surprises. More than 400 libraries and 50 schools in the Czech Republic and abroad have participated in offering this program. Audiobooks are also very popular in the Czech Republic. In 2020, approximately 422 new audiobooks were released.
The Nobel Prize in Literature Winner
To Be a Poet
Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.
In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year of Vrchlický’s death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.
Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.
Flare up, flame of words,
even if my fingers get burned!
A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on one’s finger.
But not even Puchmajer’s Rhyming Dictionary
was any use to me.
In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman’s smile and
That has been my destiny.
And I’ve been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.
“To Be a Poet” from The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers
Edited by George Gibian
Copyright ˆ 1998 by Ewald Osers and George Gibian