Prague is one of the most prestigious cultural hubs in all of Europe, and in 2000 Prague was one of the nine European Capitals of Culture. This city is within range of well-funded theatres, libraries and museums developing alongside small non-profit, grassroots groups and art collectives. It is also one of the biggest film production centres in Europe. This rich literary and cultural tradition allowed the Czech capital to join the UNESCO Cities of Literature network in 2014.
A culturally cosmopolitan city, Prague is a home to the many famous artists who wrote in both Czech and German. A legacy of Prague’s rule by the Habsburgs, the city produced influential German-language writers such as Franz Kafka, Kafka’s friend the writer Max Brod and Rainer Maria Rilke. Meanwhile, among illustrious Czech writers from Prague are the satirist Jaroslav Hašek, author of the beloved novel The Good Soldier Švejk, described Prague in ironic detail in many of his stories, and Milan Kundera, who also writes in French, author of the classic Prague-based novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being was born here. Arnošt Lustig, author of screenplays, poems, prose and poetry about the Holocaust, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Another famous name is the politician, artist and intellectual Václav Havel, face of the Velvet Revolution in 1989, a playwright, author and president of post-communist Czechoslovakia, after whom the Prague airport was named. Meanwhile, Jaroslav Seifert, the Czech writer, poet, journalist and anti-communist dissident who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984, spent his entire life in Prague.
Prague has a vibrant publishing industry, with publishers including Litteraria Pragensia and Vlak Magazine, Prague Revue and Café Irreal, which take a central part of the city’s literary life. Book design, illustration, graphic design and typography are all fields with long traditions in Czech avant-garde and modernist art.
The Czech Republic can boast of approximately 6,000 libraries, about 200 of which are in the nation’s capital. The Municipal Library of Prague is the biggest municipal public library in the Czech Republic and includes the Central Library, 41 branches and 3 mobile libraries (bibliobuses). Prague has one of the highest concentrations of bookshops in Europe. The city is home to approximately 130 bookshops, including approximately 60 used bookshops and around 20 literary cafes.
The International Book Fair and Literary Festival Book World Prague featuers about 400 exhibitions, attracting 40,000 visitors.Their first international poetry festival was held in 2004 and became formalized as the Prague Micro festival in 2009. The Prague Writers’ Festival celebrates the Czech Republic’s writers and the International Literature and Theatre Festival, Deti Ctete (Children, do you read?) is one of Prague’s most successful festivals. Komiksfest is a comic festival championing local creators and celebrating both European and international graphic fiction.
Founded in 1348, Charles University is the oldest university in Central Europe and one of the most important universities in this part of the world.
The Anglo–American University, a private post-secondary school offering degree programmes in English, runs the New Prague Summer Programme for Writers. The Josef Škvorecký Literary Academy offers university degrees in creative writing in Czech. Meanwhile, courses in playwriting and screenwriting are offered at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts and the Film and TV School in Prague.
Prague also features a number of residential scholarship programmes. The Prague Literature Centre of German-Writing Authors, which promotes literature written in German, offers creative residential scholarships for both Czech and foreign writers and translators twice a year. The Art and Theatre Institute has been funding residencies as part of the Programme of Creative Residencies as well as the Halma network of European literary centres. for writers since 2009.
The Czech National Library became the first library in the world to be awarded the UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize for their trailblazing work to make their book collections accessible digitally. There are over 40 literary awards in the Czech Republic; most are awarded in Prague, including the prestigious Franz Kafka Prize, which honours many categories.