Having just been to the ENO's wonderful production of Janáček's The Makropulos Case, I did a bit of background reading about it. I was struck by the genre of the story being very close to science fiction, based on a play by a Czech writer, Karel Čapek (1890-1938), of whom I had never heard and who turns out to have been a highly influential author of science fiction works and the inventor of the term "robot". Another Janáček opera, The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century, has an explicitly science fiction plot based on books written in 1888 and 1889 by the Czech author Svatopluk Čech. This is pretty pioneering stuff - contemporary with Jules Verne and predating H. G. Wells. It's certainly part of European literary heritage, and yet this is material that's virtually unknown in England. You can find Čapek in translation; I couldn't find any Čech at all.

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Come to think of it, there's hardly any Czech-language literature that's commonly found in English translation (the most famous Czech author, Kafka, wrote in German). The only authors I can bring to mind are Milan Kundera and Jaroslav Hašek (writer of the wonderfully anarchic The Good Soldier Švejk).

Somehow, I think we're probably missing out. Can someone Czech give me a quick reading list of things I should know about?

22nd September 2010