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Evenings with Polish Reporters: A Painfully Close War

Illustration
  • Where: Václav Havel Library, Ostrovní 13, Prague 110 00
  • When: January 23, 2018, 19:00 – 21:00

Slaughter taking place just a few hundred kilometres from the Czech border. Genocide playing out in the middle of Europe in the 1990s. Can we comprehend the brutal Yugoslav war? Or describe it? The Polish reporter Wojciech Tochman and the Czech journalist Jan Urban attempted to do so in their books of reportage.

Evening moderated by the translator Lenka Kuhar Daňhelová.

“There have been thousands of dispatches, reports, exhibitions, books, albums and documentary and feature films about the war in Bosnia. But as soon as the war ended reporters packed up their cameras and immediately set off for other conflicts,” writes Wojciech Tochman in the book Jako bys jedla kámen (As If You’d Eaten a Stone). Tochman returned repeatedly to Bosnia and spoke mainly to women, whose stories tell us more about the nature of the war than statistics or political analyses. The seasoned reporter is the author of numerous books of reporting from Poland, but also from impoverished areas in the Philippines and the Rwandan genocide. In 2015 he received an Amnesty International award for his work promoting and defending human rights. Tochman’s book from 2002 was published in Czech in 2017 on the Absynt imprint in a translation by Lenka Kuhar Daňhelová.

The journalist, dissident and Charter 77 signatory Jan Urban was a war correspondent in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to where he also helped deliver humanitarian aid. Urban’s book Všem sráčům navzdory: válka, o které nechcete nic vědět) (Despite all the Bastards: The War You Don’t Want to Know Anything About) was first released in 1997 by the publishing house G plus G before being reissued in 2017 by Absynt.

“Sarajevo is for me the centre of the world. Its conscience and future,” Urban says in the book.

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Diary entry for 5 December 2005, To the Castle and Back

„It’s as though I were constantly expecting someone to visit. But who? A strange and beautiful woman who admires me?… I have only one explanation: I’m constantly preparing for the last judgment, for the highest court from which nothing can be hidden… I’m obviously assuming that the supreme judge is a stickler like me.“

Václav Havel:
Diary entry for 5 December 2005, To the Castle and Back, 2006

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