Tábor 3. — 5. 10. 2019

From time immemorial, people have wondered where the world might end. It could be said, though, that each village has its own little world’s end: the last house, a lonely forgotten cottage, “Gallows Hill” or a stone cross in the forest. To travel to the end of the world need not mean to travel far. Rather, it could be any place people like to avoid - perhaps someone eccentric lives there, a scary old woman, or maybe it is just “way out in the boonies.” In fairytales, the king’s sons travel to the end of the world, in myths and legends, it is the heroes who take up that task... Sometimes, the end of the world is described as an icy mountain cloaked in an endless ocean of mist where everything revolves upside down. Sometimes it is described as the border between our world and that which lies beyond. There are places at the end of the world people have always yearned for, places they visit on expeditions, oceanic voyages, journeys of discovery, when they want to change something in their lives, or when they wish to leave the past behind. And then there are the ends of the world humanity has been on the lookout for thousands of years: days when nothing will ever be as before. We stand at the threshold of a world drawing to its conclusion, anxiously, melancholically seeking for what the winds of time have erased, for what humanity’s unstoppable progress has swallowed from those distant days we struggled for survival in dark, inhospitable caves to the impersonal tech-society we are quickly becoming today.

What remains to be done at world’s end? Perhaps take a moment’s pause to look up and speak to one another. This year at Tabook, we want to see what will happen if we do more than simply repeat mechanically what has already been experienced. We want to come closer, to focus our attention differently. In his memoirs, Elias Canetti describes evenings with Karl Kraus where he would read aloud from classic literature, his own writing and the writing of his contemporaries. His renditions had all of Vienna from their feet.

What is it like to listen to ancient chronicles, philosophical lectures or literary essays amidst an urban landscape, how is a small circle of listeners clustered around a family table effected by the spoken word, what do we feel when we hear a tale we have heard before told differently, what happens when, weary from the buzz of the day, we pass a caravan where a lonely speaker is reading from some of Shalamov’s short stories as if to spite the night? I sincerely hope these will be more than mere theatrical exercises performed solely because it was so decided. Though perhaps even that could prove useful in helping us realize that, more than careening about festivals, quiet, time, and being alone with a book is what we need to come to any kind of understanding.


At Tabook at the end of the world, Radovan Charvát will be our guide when following in the footsteps of the inconspicuous and unusually focused writer, W. G. Sebald, through sinologist Olga Lomová and her translation, we will be able to touch the world of distant China (as well the country’s current affairs), Romani storytellers will take us into the world beyond, readings in the countryside take us on journeys through urban landscapes to places we might not have known about or perhaps have always thought too ordinary... Our theme, dreaming of America, will be filled in by a historical debate about those who set out across the sea, their various notions and world views, and a lecture on how the Czech music scene has been influenced by American musical styles. We are overjoyed that this year the doors of so many local families have been opened and you will be able to sit at their table and listen to the translators reading from their work. Of course, we will retain much of our usual scheme: encounters with our favorite authors, poets and translators of every generation: Sylvie Richterová, Anna Petruželová, Petr Borkovec, Jáchym Topol, Viktor Pivovarov, Šárka Grauová, Petr Motýl, Ivan Medeši... And this year, the publishers themselves have prepared many of their own surprises. Just as every year, they bring with them their vibrant and colorful publisher’s world as well as some very special authors, Czechs like Veroniku Bendovou, Adélu Knapovou, Jana Němce, Miroslava Olšovského, Petra Čorneje, a large Slovak delegation and even two Iranian authors who have emigrated to Prague.

And as you well know, the list does not end there. If the literary world is one cornerstone, then the other one is certainly the world of illustrated books, graphic design and authorial works. It is thanks to this area we have been able to connect with the international scene. Twelve Tabook exhibitions include the dry humor of postcards by the experienced warhorse Lionel Koechlin of France and the ever ready Jakub Plachý, carefully selected books from Japan, Germany, France and the Balkans, a small table with rare books by our favorite John Broadly, Manuel Marsol’s joyful return to painted illustration, the one-of-a-kind artistic eye of Étienne Beck, the arrival of two men whose passion has become letterpress - the letterpress activist posters of Amos Kennedy and Martin Amstutz who publishes and typesets his own letterpress news sheet, Wochenblatt, in 77 parts. Thanks to cooperation with UMPRUM (The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague), Tabook will also host a series of lectures (Schola) which examines the world of illustrated books and is geared mainly toward students of art schools, graphic designers and book professionals... It is a full program, and it may seem impossible to see it all, but I believe everyone - children included, of course - can find their own direction towards which to wend their way. At Tabook, there is nothing you must do. All locations are nearby, and everything can be done in its own time. There is no need to rush, choose wisely and enjoy the closeness of some amazing people who make books here, now and everywhere, even at the end of the world!