The 17th annual Magnesia Litera Book Awards will be held next month. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic, the awards committee has published its picks for the 100 greatest Czech books from 1918-2016.
Organizers say the birth of the Republic was associated with significant state and social support for Czech literature including the 1919 Public Libraries Act, which has led to the country boasting one of the densest networks of public libraries in the world.
The public is being asked to vote for their three favorite books from the list; the Book of the Century will be announced when the awards ceremony airs on April 4, 2018.
Those familiar with the Czech literary canon won’t find many surprises on a list which includes the usual bookshop favorites, described by Czech Lit portal editor Melvyn Clarke as “Hašek’s Švejk, the Čapek brothers’ original robots and the unbearable lightness of Kundera, Havel, Hrabal, Škvorecký, Klíma and Lustig.”
The list spans not only eras but genres, featuring everything from children’s books (Josef Čapek’s All about Doggie and Pussycat) to thrillers (Miloš Urban’s The Seven Churches) and poetry (Bohumila Grögerová’s Manuscript).
Women are underrepresented in the earlier half of the century while a number of contemporary Czech female authors show up in the latter half (here’s a round-up of female Czech authors who should be available in translation but aren’t).
The list has already proven controversial with a number of critics calling the selections sentimental, not serious.
To see the complete 100 titles (in Czech) click here.
English translations for a number of these titles can be found in our article on Czech Writers Available In English.
The Magnesia Litera awards honor an outstanding book of the year as well as recognizing literary achievement in nine categories ranging from fiction to memoir, poetry, and translation.