Upírovi bude 280 let / Stĺpček

Jednoho zimního dne roku 1732 se z hrobě Balkánu dostal na světlo “osvícené” Evropy podivný tvor: upír. Kariéra jednoho z nejpopulárnějších mýtů evropské moderny ale v žádném případě  nezačíná v Transylvánii. Zrodil se totiž v Medvedji, zapadlé vesničce v jižním Srbsku, z níž se v Titových dobách stalo reálsocialistické (malo)město a v 70. letech tu vnikly termální lázně, které trpícím obyvatelům Jugoslávie slibovali zmírnění jejich obtíží. Takový obyčejný úkaz V třicátých letech 18. století byl po válkách s Turky celý západní Balkán obsazen habsburskými vojsky. Panoval tu hlad, epidemie a nejistota, co místním přinese změna vrchnosti. A pak se najednou […]

A Noble Self-Sacrifice

Dear Prime Minister Radičová, You have taken the words out of my mouth when you told the [Czech Prime Minister] Petr Nečas in Brussels that “‚this is not how an honest and upright man behaves”‘, that is, first rushing into the EU and then beating a retreat as soon as problems arise. And you’’re also quite right to say that back in the days when Czechoslovakia split, our countries competed who would be the first to join the EU. In my country it was actually Václav Klaus himself who led this relay race and for a long time it seemed likely […]

Slovakia For Sale

Photo: Peter Župník Svätý Jur, a small town near Bratislava, famous for its wine cellars, is depopulated in the mornings, with its colourful houses and plague column resembling a theatre set. The air is frosty despite the winter sun but the local pub is warm and cosy thanks to the log fire, made of wood from the local Lesser Carpathian mountains that rise right behind the fortifications built in the 17th century to keep out the Turks. As Tom Nicholson enters the pub in his padded jacket, looking as if he has just come down from the hills, the regulars […]

How I accosted a Grandmaster

Vagaries of geography make people come up with all sorts of occupations, some quite weird. For example, compulsive chess playing. The island of Grimsey is the only part of Iceland that is intersected by the Arctic Circle. It runs directly across the bed of a legendary pastor. Legend has it that this God-fearing fellow was instrumental in populating the island, while brave young men struggled with the ocean leaving their wives in his care. The current population exceeds one hundred and although everyone laughs at the legend of the fertile pastor, his successor makes only flying visits once a month. […]

A Hand with Marvellous Wings

In the 1960s, as I was embarking on the career of a poet, I brought my poetry to [the Krakow weekly] “Życie Literackie” (what an emotional moment!). Wisława Szymborska was in charge of the poetry section. Following a second visit she accepted one of my poems for print. Later, when we got to know each other well and I reminded her of this story, she’’d say: Adam, I don’’t remember it. In the 1970s I was already a regular at her famous dinners. The conversation was never “literary”’. Poetry was discussed least of all but that came in a later […]