Paul Wilson will discuss his English translation of former Czech Republic President Václav Havel’s recently published book “To the Castle and Back,” at the Library of Congress on May 17.
The event, sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center and the Embassy of the Czech Republic, will begin at noon on Thursday, May 17
, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The book talk is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.
A considerable amount of Havel’s memoir was written at the Library of Congress, while the former Czech president held the Chair of Modern Culture in the Kluge Center.
Havel, a writer, dissident and statesman, played an important role in the profound changes that occurred in Central Europe during the final decades of the 20th century. He became a powerful intellectual and political force for the re-establishment of democratic principles and institutions. Known in his native Prague for his theatrical productions and imprisoned for his anticommunist views, Havel emerged on the international stage in 1989 as the elected president of Czechoslovakia and, in 1993, as president of the newly-formed Czech Republic.
In the book, Havel writes about his transition from playwright to politician and the challenges of governing a young democracy. He also shares his thoughts on the future of the European Union, the reach of the American superpower and the role of national identity in today’s world. He explains why he has come to believe the war in Iraq is a fiasco, and he discusses the reverberations from his initial support of the invasion.
Wilson is a freelance writer, translator, editor and radio producer who spent 10 years in Czechoslovakia (1967-1977), where he taught English and learned Czech. He was eventually expelled by the communist government for his association with the dissident movement, particularly for his involvement with the underground music scene as a member of the legendary rock band the Plastic People of the Universe.
On his return to Canada, Wilson was active in promoting the work of dissident writers and musicians during the remaining years of totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia. With Ivan Hartel, he founded a record company for other Czech underground musicians. He also began writing for magazines, becoming a regular contributor to Shades, Books in Canada and The Idler.
Wilson is well-known for his translations of Czech writers such as Josef Skvorecky, Ivan Klima and Bohumil Hrabal. His translations are familiar to readers of the New Yorker, Granta, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. Wilson edited and translated the English edition of “We Are Children Just the Same,” an anthology of writing from an underground newspaper published by teenage boys in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin. The translation won the National Jewish Book Award in 1995. In 2001, Wilson published his translation of Havel's play “The Beggar's Opera.” Recently, he completed a new translation of “The Memorandum,” an early play by Havel, in addition to his work on “To the Castle and Back” and his own memoirs.
Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policy-makers in Washington. For more information on the Kluge Center, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/