Czech Republic, Czechia, Politics, Uncategorized

After a name change, it’s politics as usual in Czechia.

Last Thursday I was given a Tibetan flag to wave in front of Czech President Miloš Zeman in the small town of Zabreh na Morave. The photo above shows me under a banner in Czech proclaiming: ‘we are ashamed of you’. I had met a Czech friend off the train, and proceeded straight to the main square along with a …


Communism, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Immigration, Politics, Uncategorized

Anti-Refugee Sentiment in Czechia

(Published in Village Magazine, April, 2016) Aflons Mucha’s Slav Epic enjoys pride of place in the Czech National Gallery in Prague. It is a cycle of twenty large and portentous paintings completed between 1910 and 1928 recalling the history and myths of an heterogeneous people inhabiting territory from the Asian steppe to the shores of the Mediterranean. The artist imposes …


Europe’s angry Ukrainian frontier

(Published in Village Magazine, September, 2015) Crossing from Slovakia into Trans-Carpathian Ukraine a distinct culture comes into view. At the interchange of Çop trains from the West halt on account of different rail gauges used on the other side. Stalin ordered this to prevent ease of entry for invading armies, or escape. Crossing the frontier into the former Soviet Union …

Between Music and Prose

(Published in Village Magazine, April 2015) In her recent Michael Littleton lecture for RTE ‘Has Poetry a Future?’ Eavan Boland identifies the ‘vertical’ audience it has enjoyed through history. Many hallowed poets, such as Keats, did not find a public in their own time but their words may echo across the ages unlike other forms of culture which may have …

A Czech in Ireland (longer version)

(Unpublished, 2016) The Irish Free State avoided most of the depredations of World War II. There were casualties from a few bombing raid and Belfast suffered grievously but the Emergency is mostly remembered for insufficient white bread and Eamon de Valera’s visit to the German embassy with a letter of condolence on the death of Adolf Hitler. Moreover, in an …

A Czech in Ireland

(Published in the Irish Times 5/4/16) Seventy years ago in 1946 the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia emerged as the largest political party in free elections forming a coalition government with the support of smaller parties. By that time Denis Scrivener (nee Zdenek Skrivenek) had returned to Prague with his new Irish wife Nan Keating. But the Communist Party soon became …

In Defence of Kundera’s Absurdity

(Published in Village Magazine, November/December 2015) Portentousness is the word that best describes most Anglo-American literary criticism. The canon seems to demand erudition and a knowing hauteur loaded with an impression of being slightly jaded by the cocktail party circuit. That at least is the tone favoured by the Times Literary Supplement whose reviewers tend to devour books as A. …