Oratorio for Prague

Pavla Veselá introduces three short documentaries on the Prague Spring – a contradictory, controversial and mythologised series of events that took place from January to August 1968 – Oratorium pro Prahu (Oratorio for Prague, 1968) by Jan Němec, Zmatek (Confusion, 1968-) by Evald Schorm, and Tryzna (Memorial Service, 1969) by Vlado Kubenko. This is the third event for Realising Utopia: Cinema & 1968 at Ormston House.

Oratorio for Prague began as a celebratory chronicle of the hopes that the Prague Spring revitalised and offers a partial glimpse into the multifaceted forces of the time.

Confusion begins where the first one ends: with the hopes for humanising the existing political system being largely crushed by the tanks of the Warsaw Pact. Shot in 1968 by several cameramen but only edited and released twenty years later, Confusion contains additional footage from the days of the Soviet invasion of the city and also portrays debates held at the emergency communist party meeting that took place in a Prague-Vysocany factory.

Finally, Memorial Service documents the widespread and singular reactions to the death of student Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in January 1969 in protest against the violent repression. The film will be introduced in the context of other Czech and Slovak student, worker and intellectual protests of the late 1960s.

Admission is free and booking is required on Facebook here or on Eventbrite here.

About Pavla Veselá:

Pavla holds a PhD in comparative literature from Duke University and is a senior lecturer in American Studies and Literature at Charles University Prague. The focus of her work has been modern American and Russian literature, especially utopias, science fiction as well as minority and migrant writing. Her articles and reviews appeared in the journals Spaces of Utopia; Poetics Today; Science Fiction Studies; Espinosa; Litteraria Pragensia; and the NWSA Journal.

Studies in edited collections include “A Structuralist History of Zdeněk Vančura” (Prague English Studies and the Transformation of Philologies, ed. Martin Procházka and Ondřej Pilný, Prague: Karolinum, 2012); “Hope in Toni Morrison’s Writing for Children” (Echoes of Utopia, ed. Barbara Klonowska et al., Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL, 2012); “Afroamerické utopie Samuela R. Delanyho a Octavie E. Butlerové” (Moderní svět, ed. Miroslav Petříček, Prague: Herrmann a synové, 2011); and “Socialist Realism and Abram Tertz’s Fantastic Stories” (Realism’s Others, ed. Geoffrey Baker and Eva Aldea, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010).

Pavla has also contributed to several encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia of the Cold War (2008), and co-edited the collection Feminism in Central and Eastern European Countries (1997).


Wednesday 21 March, 7-10pm

Realising Utopia: Cinema & 1968 is curated by the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies at the University of Limerick. The screening is presented in partnership with the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, the Umbrella Project Arts Organisation, and Ormston House. Special thanks to Cathal McMahon.

Image: On 21 August 1968, Leszek Sawicki was in Prague at the Geological Congress. He captured through photographs the final hours of the Prague Spring. Courtesy of Marcin Czerwinski.
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