Image by Viktor Kolář

1980s Prague: ‘Notes from Underground’ by Roger Scruton, reviewed by Robin Ashenden


In an essay last year on atheism, Roger Scruton, the conservative writer, historian and philosopher, recalled the darkest aspects of late-period communism. ‘Its aim,’ he wrote, ‘ was to replace social life with a cold calculation for survival, so that people would live as competing atoms, in…. absolute enmity and distrust…. where every secret that…

Robin Ashenden | 10/07/2015

Remembering Srebrenica: David Rohde’s ‘Endgame’ reviewed by Nick Barlay

Twenty years ago, American journalist David Rohde came across a decomposed human leg. It was sticking out of the ground in a village in eastern Bosnia. The leg was one of the first indications to the outside world that rumours of a massacre were true. It was mid-1995 and the location of the leg, as…

Nick Barlay | 09/07/2015
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Screening: ‘Gottland’ at the Frontline Club reviewed by Julia Secklehner


‘Gottland is about interesting people,’ Mariusz Szczygiel said at the opening discussion of Frontline cinema’s screening of the film modelled on his stories. Joined by Bloomberg News writer Doug Lytle and translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Szczygiel told us there are only two kinds of people in this world: those that are quiet and calm, and those that…

Julia Secklehner | 04/07/2015
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‘Innocence’ by Heda Margolius Kovály, reviewed by Robin Ashenden


Innocence, the posthumously published crime novel by Heda Margolius Kovály, comes heavy with expectation. It has been described the novelist John Banville as ‘a luminous testament from a dark time’ and a ‘must read’ by Cara Black. Then there’s the writer herself, author of Under a Cruel Star, one of the best – if not…

Robin Ashenden | 28/06/2015
Avin Shah reading Krasnowolski's Kindoki f_African Electronic tr by Antonia Lloyd-Jones PCI (2)

European Literature Night: ‘Liars’ League’, reviewed by Julia Secklehner

‘Writers write. Actors read. Audience listens. Everybody wins.’ This is what Liars’ League promises, and what it delivered at its European Literature Night event on June 9th. The authors introduced were largely from post-communist countries, including Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and East Germany. It was refreshing to see, however, that this wasn’t necessarily why…

Julia Secklehner | 17/06/2015
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Romanian Poet Ana Blandiana at the RCI, by Camelia Ciobanu

Ana Blandiana,the greatest Romanian living poet, is both of yesterday and today. To many she’s known as a dissident poet. Born in 1942 in Timisoara, she had her first poem published at the age of 17.With her father a priest and political prisoner, Ana Blandiana started her career as an ‘enemy of the people’ and…

Camelia Ciobanu | 04/05/2015

‘Dr.Kundera and Mr.Hrabal Part 2’ by Robin Ashenden

Kundera is out of favour in the Czech Republic now. He seems to many to have disowned his Czech birth, writing in French and travelling to his country only rarely, incognito. Many believe the ‘revelations’ of a few years back, that  in his youth he betrayed a friend to the secret police and a subsequent…

Robin Ashenden | 23/04/2015

‘Dr.Kundera and Mr.Hrabal Part 1’, by Robin Ashenden

I was 17 years old when The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Czech novelist Milan Kundera’s novel about the lives, loves and interior philosophies of four different characters during the Prague Spring of 1968 and its aftermath  –  came out in English, and one wonders whether there is a more fatal work for such a fatal…

Robin Ashenden | 23/04/2015
akhmatova green

‘Akhmatova. Anrep. Berlin.’ at Pushkin House, reviewed by Jo Varney


At Pushkin House,  until 29th April 2015, is an installation by the acclaimed Russian artists Vitaly Pushnitsky and Olga Jurgenson.  Curated by Elena Zaytseva, Akhmatova. Anrep. Berlin. is an exhibition that explores Silver Age poetess Anna Akhmatova’s relationship with two fellow countrymen, the philosopher-historian Isaiah Berlin and the artist Boris Anrep. The archives of Pushkin…

Jo Varney | 14/02/2015

‘Sinfonia Bulgarica’ (Evtimova, 2014) reviewed by Ian Mole


After the first page I felt that I was going to love this book but I’m afraid it didn’t quite work out that way.  The setting is a small Bulgarian town in the modern day and it’s a hungry, desperate world for three of the main protagonists,  while in great contrast the other two live…

Ian Mole | 27/01/2015