The Scent of Books

The Scent of Books

Get to know popular Czech books, libraries, and authors!

The Scent of Books
The spring months of March and April are traditionally associated with books, writers, and libraries. In the Czech Republic, March is seen as the month of books, whereas worldwide, it is April. But the exact date is not important, it is all about immersion oneself with the world of poetry, prose and knowledge. Today, we will show you the best of all things related to Czech books!

The world’s most beautiful libraries

The Baroque library in Prague's Klementinum in the centre of the Old Town is often called the most beautiful library in the world. It ranks in first place in various competitions and polls! It was built by Kilián Ignác Dietzenhofer, a master of Baroque architecture, and has served the Jesuits since 1722. Today, in the original Baroque hall, you will find about 20,000 volumes of mainly theological literature. The hall no longer serves as a library, that is, a place where you can borrow books. But it is a gem of early modern education! In addition to books, the collection of historical globes is also worth mentioning. And what is the purpose of the Klementinum complex today? The complex of buildings forms the basis of the National Library of the Czech Republic, the largest library in the country and at the same time one of the oldest Czech public libraries. You can go on a tour of Klementinum almost every day of the year and choose a for special English-guided tours.

Another library among the first on the lists of the most beautiful libraries in the world is the Strahov Library in the Strahov Monastery in Hradčany. It consists of two separate halls, each offering a completely different, unique atmosphere. The library was also rebuilt into its current form during the Baroque period in the 18th century. And what treasures lie within its halls? Hou will find, for example, the Strahov Gospel, which was created around 860 AD and is one of the oldest books you would find in the Czech Republic. Here, too, they like to show their collections to visitors, but due to the fragility and age of the books, the number of tours is limited. It is therefore necessary to book in advance on the monastery's website.

Dark alleys and the landscape of youth – inspiration for everyone

If we were to name one of the most famous writers born on the territory of today's Czech Republic, we definitely could not leave out Franz Kafka. He was a German writer from the beginning of the 20th century. He spent almost his life in Prague, where he drew inspiration for his living paintings transformed into written text. Dark medieval streets, palaces, and mutual contrasts. Everything he saw in Prague 100 years ago was imprinted in his written masterpieces. He also found inspiration in the countryside and in the atmosphere of the then sleepy mountain town of Špindlerův Mlýn, where he began writing his novel The Castle.

We mustn’t forget to mention Božena Němcová, a Czech writer of the 19th century. She is one of the most translated Czech writers! Her most famous work, The Grandmother, who, by the way, now celebrates over 160 years, is currently available in 31 languages. The work is based on the times of her childhood and in an idealised manner recollects about her grandmother and life in Ratibořice in East Bohemia. Today, you will find a commemorating monument here and you can also go on a tour of the Ratibořice chateau, which Němcová wrote about in her book.

And thirdly - Jan Amos Komenský. This is not a classic writer nor novelist. He is called the Teacher of Nations. He was a 17th-century Renaissance man - a priest, theologian, philosopher, teacher, and scientist. He laid the foundations of pedagogy as a discipline and wrote a number of books. His best-known works are The Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, where he discusses his view of the world and its laws, and Orbis Pictus, which was a ground-breaking textbook for its time. If you want to soak up some of the atmosphere of the 17th century and of book printing, head to the manual paper mill in Velké Losiny, one of the last paper mills still operating today. You will come to learn that at that time the publication of this book was no easy task.

Books in the lead role!

The International Book Fair and Literary Festival Svět knihy Praha (Czech: World of Books Prague) is preparing another year. In 2022, it will take place from 9 to 12 June in Výstaviště, the main exhibition grounds of Prague. Once again, it will welcome fans of literature, where it will acquaint them with the literary works from several countries and will not leave out contemporary Czech authors. Every year, 400 exhibitors from more than 30 countries around the world present themselves here. If you are a a lover of books, you must not miss the Literary Festival!

Czech books are the best!

The oldest book in the Czech Republic: Zlomek Žaltáře, or the Žaltář Fragment, originating from Řezno, end of the 8th century. Stored in the National Library in Klementinum.

The largest book written in the Czech lands: Codex Gigas written in the now defunct monastery in Podlažice in East Bohemia in the 13th century. It weighs 75 kg and is about a metre in length. It is currently stored in Stockholm, Sweden.

The most translated Czech author: Milan Kundera, a Czech writer living in Paris.
The most translated Czech book: The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek