To jaro v Praze - That Spring in Prague: Bilingual Czech-English edition (Paperback)

To jaro v Praze - That Spring in Prague: Bilingual Czech-English edition By Alfie Wills (Translator), Jonathan Wills (Photographer), Jonathan Wills Cover Image

To jaro v Praze - That Spring in Prague: Bilingual Czech-English edition (Paperback)

By Alfie Wills (Translator), Jonathan Wills (Photographer), Jonathan Wills

$9.15


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I took the photographs in this little book during late March and early April 1968, when I was one of a party of a dozen students from Edinburgh University who travelled by Channel ferry and train to Prague for a three-week exchange with the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University. The trip was arranged as part of the 'Edinburgh Conversations', established to keep academic contacts open between the West and the Communist East during the (first) Cold War.
We arrived to find many university classes suspended. In their place there was an endless tumult of seminars, meetings and teach-ins, where students, staff and politicians debated 'Socialism with a Human Face', the Czechoslovak Communist Party's brave but doomed attempt to loosen the dictatorship that had stifled all dissent since the coup of 1948.
When we weren't at meetings we were at the theatre, seeing politically provocative productions by playwrights such as Vaclav Havel that would have been impossible a few years earlier. There were also films (notably 'Closely Watched Trains' by Jiři Menzel) and exhibitions by painters such as Frantisek Kupka, who had been out of favour for decades.
In the evenings there was a lot of pivo beer] in the student bars as well as private parties where we foreign visitors were welcomed into the family homes of our student hosts - something unthinkable under the dictatorship before (and for a long while after) the 'Prague Spring'.
In among it all I found time to wander the streets of Prague, taking pictures with the old Zeiss-Ikon Contina camera my father had given me. There are a few shots of Marxist students from the West who were trying to convince our Czech student colleagues that reformed 'Euro-communism' was a wonderful idea. But mostly I just tried to record the ordinary life of this beautiful city in the midst of political upheaval.
We made good friends and promised to write, but four months after we left the Prague Spring it withered and died in the August invasion by 'fraternal' Soviet tanks. Edinburgh University advised us that contacting our new Czech friends might put them in danger, so we didn't.
Many years later, when my son married a Czech, I went back to Prague and met again one of the students I'd known in 1968, Katia Paderlikova. These days I visit Prague as often as I can, to see my grandsons. Katia and I sometimes have coffee in a caf near the Clementinum, to talk over old times and what has been achieved, and not achieved, since those momentous weeks over 50 years ago.

Czech translation by Alfie Wills:

Fotografie v t to mal kn zce jsem poř dil během konce března a zač tku dubna 1968, kdy jsem se jako jeden z dvan cti studentů Edinbursk univerzity vypravil nejprve trajektem přes La Manche a pot vlakem do Prahy na tř t denn v měnn pobyt na Filozofick fakultě Univerzity Karlovy. Z jezd byl zorganizov n v r mci "edinbursk ch konverzac " ("Edinburgh Conversations"), kter měly zajistit akademick styky mezi z padem a komunistick m v chodem.

Po př jezdu jsme zjistili, ze se značn mnozstv hodin na fakultě nekon . Nahrazovala je nekonečn vřava semin řů, schůzek a neform ln ch předn sek veden studenty, vyučuj c mi a politiky, v r mci kter ch se vedly debaty o "socialismu's lidskou tv ř ," odv zn m ale ne spěsn m pokusem Komunistick strany Československa uvolnit poměry v diktatuře, kter od převratu v roce 1948 potlačovala vesker n znaky disentu.
Product Details ISBN: 9798376069295
Publisher: Independently Published
Publication Date: April 13th, 2023
Pages: 48
Language: English