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Newsletters No. 683, 684, 685 and 686  
Newsletter No. 683  
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Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 3rd June 2008

Tuesday: After breakfast, sit with Guillaume and we talk about the development of my blog and how the Festival is evolving. Go to the computer room and put in some time to try to catch up to date. Betty Aridjis comes to check her email and she tells me that today (or did she say tomorrow?) is the anniversary of Kafka's death. Siri Hustvedt comes to check her email and we chat briefly about the Village Voice Bookshop and Shakespeare & Co - two great bookshops in Paris. She and I met in the Village Voice Bookshop after a talk she gave. She and Paul Auster will both be back in Paris in mid-June for the festival that Sylvia Whitman is organizing . (It will be her third literary festival; the first two were excellent.)
Milena Findeis gives me some photograph postcards she has produced. It features Jim Rubenstein standing next to me in the lobby of the Hotel Josef with Margaret Atwood in the background. Michael March and I talk about how the festival is doing. I tell him that I think yesterday's "1968:Czechoslovakia" was an important event. Michael agrees. He gives Vlasta most of the credit for making it a success. We also speak of last evening's international session and I report that I found it extremely stimulating. That I also found the invitation from the Canadian Ambassador, Michael Calcott, very generous. He invited the entire audience to stay and dine and drink with us. Congratulate Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke on her reading last night. Go to the computer room. Slavenka Drakulic is being interviewed. The journalist departs and I mention to Slavenka that we met after a reading she gave at the Village Voice Bookshop. I remember that she has a Swedish husband. Tell her that I have a Swedish son and a Swedish ex-wife. Somehow Dusan Makavejev is mentioned and we talk about him and Croatia. She and I make a tentative breakfast date for Thursday morning.
Go out for some fresh air and encounter Tariq Ali and Michael March. Join them and we have an excellent conversation about the movie, Gandhi. Tariq tells an amusing story about the film and Ronald Reagan. I tell Tariq about the evening I dined with Indira Gandhi in London in the mid-60s. Ask Tariq if he will be at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August and he says that he will be there.
Martin Belk suggests the tram is the best way to get to the Theatre Minor. Purchase two tram tickets from the concierge. Martin , Jonathan, Geraldine and I walk a short distance, board the No. 14 tram and within a few minutes, we are there. A fun and painless trip. The 17.00 hour New York University conversation, "The Taste of Man" features Slavenka Drakulic and Tariq Ali with Jiri Pehe serving as the moderator. Both Slavenka and Tariq are always worth listening to. Tariq mentions the fact that there are more and more separate religious schools in Britain for Christians, Jews and Muslins and that this is asking for trouble not only now but as time passes it will only get worse. I have long felt this was a major mistake. He suggests that the E.U. in Brussels should create a law banning these separate schools for all members of the Common Market and establish a common school policy. For all That if the religions wish to have special classes, these could take place when the schools are not performing their normal schedules. I agree.
The 18.00 hour Guardian conversation is entitled "1968: Change" and is moderated by Gary Younge. A large panel of participants: Homero Aridjis, Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson, Dimitris Nollas and Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke. Gary does another superb job. Stimulating once again.
At 20.00 hours we have another international evening of readings. Elena Schwarz from Russia, Graeme Gibson from Toronto, and Michael McClure from San Francisco.
Afterwards there is another Ambassador's party in the theatre to which the audience is invited. It is hosted by José Louis Bernal Rodriquez, the Ambassador of Mexico, and Catherine von Heidenstam, the Ambassador of Sweden. A delightful event. Delicious food. What a superb evening! Thank the lovely Catherine.
Ride the No. 14 tram with Martin Belk, Geraldine Sweeney, and Jonathan Pryce back to our neighborhood. Give Martin a copy of White Washing Fences and he gives me a copy of his Pretty Broken People, subtitled lipstick, leather jeans, a death of New York.
A bunch of people are sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Josef. Join them for a while and then head upstairs to the quiet of my room. It has been another full day.

 
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website
Jim Haynes
3rd June 2008

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

Newsletter No. 684  
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Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 4th June 2008

Wednesday: Up at 9.After a quick shower and shave, go down for breakfast. See Siri and Paul. Back to my room and get a call from Steve Gove. He is the founder and director of the Prague Fringe Festival. He asks if it is a good moment to come for morning coffee. Tell him to meet me in the lobby of the Hotel Josef about 11. Quickly down for another coffee. Slavenka Drakilic sits with Tariq Ali and another man a few tables away and we exchange waves. Go afterwards to check my email and I have a message from Jim Campbell in London. He recently had a piece in the Guardian about visiting Gore Vidal in L.A. There is also a message from Phyllis Roome in Paris. She will cook next Sunday's dinner. Hannah and Guillaume are in the computer room planning the transportation schedule for today. They depart and I open the Tuesday blog. A fellow enters and we chat briefly. He is from Tel-Aviv and is in Prague on a business trip. Something to do with computers. His name is Shraga Katz. We discuss Dahn Ben-Amotz and Amos Oz. Tell him that Dahn and I were friends from the 60s and that I have met Amos Oz in Edinburgh and Paris.
Back up to my room and Steve calls again to say he will be fifteen minutes late. Not a problem. After a bit, go downstairs to the lobby. And Steve appears. We both have cappuccinos. I ask him to call Eva Kacerova on his mobile phone and she and I chat. She reports not feeling 100% OK. In fact, she is in her bed. I tell her that I am a Consultant to the Director of the Calcutta Film Festival and need to talk with her about Czech cinema. Melina comes over to the table and I ask her to join us. She remembers meeting Steve before. We three chat about a lot of things including the Prague Writers' Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Josef and Maximilian Hotels.Steve calls a taxi to take us to the Café Savoy where we are to meet his mum, Carol, and a number of his associates who help run the Prague Fringe Festival. As we speed across to the other side of the river, he points out various spaces where theatre companies performed. Steve calls the Canadian Ambassador, Michael Calcott and after they have had a brief talk, the phone is passed to me and I tell him how much I enjoyed his party on Sunday night and how kind it was to invite the entire theatre audience to join in the fun. Later I ask Steve about Michael McEvoy and his one-man show, Not in My Name! - The Trial of Niccolo Machiavelli, and he says that many people reported liking his performance. I was the one who suggested to Michael to contact Steve. We arrive at the Savoy and I am introduced to Frankie Pearson (who soon will be moving to Moscow with the British Foreign Office), Ania Gebeka (who is not sure if she will be back here in Prague with the British Embassy and the Czech Foreign Office) and Carol, Steve's mum (who I first met in Edinburgh during a Festival some years ago). Then a woman named Vanessa Welsby (a graphic designer who designed the Prague Fringe Festival booklet) joins us followed by Giles Burton (the technical director of the Fringe Festival). Lunch seems to be excellent from the happy smiles on everyone's faces. Because of my Hotel Josef breakfast feast, I am not hungry. But order a bowl of lentil soup just to be polite.
I want to go to the Big Ben Bookshop for the 2pm signings. Ask Steve to call a taxi for me. Steve does and one will pick me up in ten minutes. Steve flies to Edinburgh tomorrow for two nights and will be back in Paris on Saturday. As soon as I have embraced Steve (and he has reminded me that he comes to visit in July), speed toward the Big Ben Bookshop in the softly falling rain. There will be a number of signings. I always want to support small independent booksellers, so purchase a small pile of books. They have sold out of all books by Siri Hustvedt, so purchase books by Tariq Ali, Conversations with Tariq Ali, speaking of empire and resistance and Slavenka Drakilic, Café Europa - Life After Communism. Talk with a journalist named Rosamund Johnston who is from Fife just across the Forth Bridge from Edinburgh, but currently living in Prague and reporting for Radio Prague (English section). Tell her that I lived ten years in Edinburgh and that I never miss an Edinburgh Festival. There is also a journalist in the shop from Iran who interviews Tariq Ali. I half jokingly wrote once that Tariq Ali should be the next Director General of the U.N. But maybe he would be wasted there. Maybe he should just continue to do what he is doing. Get Tariq and Slavenka to sign several books. Tell Siri that I will purchase her new novel when I am back in Paris. Slip out of the bookshop, and walk in the rain the short distance to Hotel Josef. (Discover that I have left the red jacket that Martin Lehberger gave me in the Savoy Café. Damn.)
Once safe and dry in the Josef, ask at the desk if Manfred Tobolka, the General Manager, is free for a minute. He comes out and I introduce myself. Tell him how much I appreciate the generosity of the hotel's support of the Prague Writers' Conference. Tell him that I think the hotel is delightful in every way. That he is doing a great job. He thanks me and says he hopes to see me back here in future years. I promise to come again. And to recommend to everyone going to Prague about the Hotel Josef.
Soon it is time to head for the Theatre Minor and Michael McClure's California Dreaming the Sixties. Mollye finds a festival car and we speed to the theatre. Sit upstairs and enjoy Michael's reading.
Then it is after 5pm and time for me to host Homero Aridjis and Igor Pomerantsev. It is a bizarre event, but in the end it is almost excellent. Homero reads first and then has to rush away to a television appointment. Igor and I have a brief exchange and then he reads in Russian and Frank Williams translates his poetry into superb English. Igor and I met at an Edinburgh Festival some years ago. He used to be with the BBC Russian Service. Of course he knows Jim Campbell, Alex Kan and Zinovy Zinik. Now both Igor and Frank live in Prague and broadcast with Radio Liberty. Afterwards, in the press room, congratulate Igor and Frank. Meet Stavros Petsopoulos, the director of Agra Publications in Athens. Learn that Stavros will fly to Paris on Friday.
At 20.00 hours another international series of readings. Tariq Ali produces a scene from a play he co-authored with Howard Brenton. Slavenka Drakulic reads from one of her books. And Günter Kunert surprises me with his extremely funny poetic writings about an old man.
Sit and have another coffee with Stanislava Simuniova, a young woman who organizes a program for young volunteers. She and I met at the same time last year. It's good to see her again. She introduces me to two young women, both volunteers from two cities in Germany.
Then we have a premier screening of a film entitled The Inner Life of Martin Frost, written and directed by Paul Auster. It's the end of a long and amazing day.

 
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website
Jim Haynes
4th June 2008

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

Newsletter No. 685  
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Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 5th June 2008

Thursday: Wake up early. Listen to the BBC World Service television. Robert Kennedy assassinated 40 years ago today. My old friend from Warsaw, Stash Pruszynski, was there and witnessed this tragedy. When will we ever learn the truth about who really did it and the other assassinations as well? Then turn it off and go back to sleep. Up again after 9. Climb out of bed, quickly wash and go downstairs for another breakfast feast. Spot Slavenka Drakulic in the lobby and apologize to her for missing our breakfast date. She suggests I join her now for a visit to the Museum of Communism. But breakfast calls. Thank her and walk the short distance to what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite rituals. I rarely eat anything in the mornings in Paris. But here in the Hotel Josef, all is so delicious that it is impossible not to indulge. Sit alone, but Guillaume Basset soon joins me. We discuss Paul Auster’s film and gossip a bit about the festival. I ask him if the attractive woman he left the theatre with last night might be Laure, his girlfriend. He says yes it was and that he will introduce us later tonight.
Back in the lobby, Tariq Ali is preparing to depart today for Copenhagen. I scribble a few words in the book White Washing Fences, and ask Guillaume to give it to Tariq when they meet later. (The book is a bit embarrassing because it is a warm homage to me written by some thirty writers and edited by Howard Aster of Mosaic Books in Toronto.) I have one more book that I brought from Paris. It is Throw a Great Party edited by Mary Bartlett, Antonia Hoogewerf, and Catherine Monnet. The subtitle is Inspired by evenings in Paris with Jim Haynes and contains all you need to know about how to give superb dinner parties. Based, of course, on thirty years of Sunday dinners in Paris in my atelier to which some 120,000 people have attended. I see Milena Findeis walking towards me, so she gets this copy. She and the Hotel Josef have been so supportive of the Prague Writers’ Festival.
Time for our lunch date at the American Ambassador’s residence. I share a taxi there with Michael March, Lara Woolstom from Amnesty International in London, and Helena Lambrou. Helena organizes a poetry festival on the Greek island of Skoplos the 21st and 22nd of June every year. We arrive and I have forgotten my invitation. But my name is on the list and I am allowed to enter. The Ambassador, Richard W. Graber, greets us. Thank him for extending hospitality to us all. He gives a brief talk about the history of the mansion and the family who had it built. We also learn how and when it was acquired by the American government. The residence is a large home situated in beautiful grounds. We are a fairly numerous group of people that includes the Swedish Ambassador, Catherine von Heidenstam. She always looks so lovely. Talk with the Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of Mexico, Antonio Lopez Rios, and am introduced to his wife. Thank him again for the delicious Mexican food served on Tuesday evening. He gives me an invitation to attend a concert tonight to hear the Trio Morelia. Tell him I would love to attend, but that I am not sure how the rest of the day will unfold. Meet also a woman named Suzanne Pastor who seems to be involved with graphics and book design. Talk as well with Michael McClure, with Hannah Brooks-Motl and with lots of other people. Vlasta introduces me to Zdenek Jicínský who was a close associate of Dubcek and the people around the “Prague Spring”. He and I chat briefly in French.
The lunch is delicious. Thank you, tax-payers of America.
In the ride into the city, talk with Josef Rauvolf, a journalist and translator. He has translated into Czech a number of writers including William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Selby Jr and William Blake. Behind us, on the back seat, sit Siri Hustvedt, Paul Auster, and Melina Findeis. Mention to Paul and Siri that I will see them the 13th and 14th of June in Paris when Shakespeare & Co and Sylvia Whitman host “real lives – exploring memoir and biography”, another literary festival.
Brief rest in Hotel Josef. Then we are in a taxi again for the American Center for a conversation between Paul Auster and Michael McClure with Paul Kahn acting as the moderator. The place is packed. I know most of what is discussed since I lived through the period but it is interesting to re-live those exciting times once again.
Afterwards about eight of us, (including Michael March, Dominique & Paul Kahn, Amy & Michael McClure, Paul Foster) dine in a Serbian restaurant called Gitanes. It is just down from the American Embassy in Trziste 7. Goran Bregovic’s music can be heard softly in the restaurant. (This, of course, makes me think of Maria Rankov and the time I traveled to Timisoara and Cluj to attend two Goran Bregovic concerts and to dine with him and Maria afterwards.)
Some people ride in an Embassy car to the Theatre Minor for the last international evening with Dimitris Nollas (from Greece), Petr Kral (Czech Republic) and Paul Auster (USA). A few others walk there. I jump on the #20 tram and ride there. When I exit the tram, chat with a lovely woman to make sure I am headed in the right direction and discover that Petra (from Most, Czech Republic) is also going to the theatre. We chat and walk there together.
And then it is over. Well, not entirely. There is a superb party at the Zofin Garden restaurant, a short walk from the theatre. Igor Pomerantsev asks me outside the theatre if I know the directions. I have asked Clare Wigfall to join me and I introduce her to Igor. Clare introduces me to a fellow from San Francisco (whose name I have forgotten) and we four strike out for the party. Igor and Clare in the lead and Clare’s friend and me very much in the rear. I walk much slower than I used to do.
I sit almost the entire time with Geraldine Sweeney and Stefan Pearson. Too tired to circulate. A few people pass to say goodbye. Rossano Maniscalchi gives me a copy of No Small Distance, one of his photographic books, and we discuss his having an exhibition in my private gallery. Martin Belk and Jonathan Pryce join us. Vlasta Brtnikova asks if I would like a ride to the Hotel Josef and I say this is a good idea. Look around to say my farewells, but they will have to wait until tomorrow. Or another day. It has been another fantastic week. Michael and Vlasta and their team have done a fantastic job.

 

read the blog on the Prague Writers' Festival Website

Jim Haynes
5th June 2008

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

Newsletter No. 686  
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Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 6th June 2008

Friday: The party last night was superb. It had everything. Beautiful location, delicious food, lots of drink, interesting live music. Friendly guests. It was painful to leave. But I have had to get up this morning, pack and prepare to fly to Paris. Up before the alarm goes off. Shave, shower, shampoo, pack and dress. Go down for the last breakfast. Guillaume joins me briefly and reports suffering from a major hang-over. Amy and Michael McClure wander in and sit nearby. We exchange waves and smiles. They fly today to Naples.
Go back to the computer room and check email
Sit in the lobby and chat with Mollye, Hannah and Guillaume. Michael March appears and he is busy with the departure of writers to London, Paris, Copenhagen, Athens, Naples. Busy also with the accounts. He must report every penny that is spent to the various sponsors. I think this year’s festival has been a great success. By almost any criteria one selects to judge it. Stimulating writers discussing relevant subjects. Excellent encounters. A theatre full of individuals all who seem pleased and excited to be present. Delightful parties where even the audiences have been invited to stay and participate. I think Michael, Vlasta and his their team have every right to be pleased with their efforts. I certainly enjoyed every minute. The Hotel Josef has been an oasis in every sense of the word.
At some point a taxi is found for Natalli Gorbanevske, Susan Reynolds and yours truly. Quick goodbyes. We pile inside and speed towards the airport. Susan and I talk on the way about how she came to be a Librarian. She flies to London. Natalli and I fly to Paris. So does Stavros Petsopoulos.
At the airport, quick check-in and clear passport and security controls and head for the boarding area. There is a delay, but soon in the air and on the way to Paris. Encounter Stavros when we land and we agree to share a taxi into Montparnasse. Discover that Natalli also lives nearby, but she decides to go on her own. Stavros and I have a good long talk about the Prague Writers’ Festival, about a number of friends in Athens and elsewhere, about my Sunday salon, about publishing and the Frankfurt Book Fair. He says he will stay the weekend in Paris and try to come to dinner on Sunday. I am the first to be dropped off. Stavros will not let me contribute to the taxi fare. Thank him and tell him that he is a guest on Sunday night..
It has been one hell of a week. I am exhausted but still excited by it all. I will miss the Hotel Josef (especially the breakfast feasts). I will miss the daily contacts with stimulating minds. But I suspect that a number of the new friendships will continue and that everyone will journey to Paris in the coming weeks and months. One of the best reasons for living in Paris is the constant flow of interesting individuals who pass through and the many who stay here in my atelier as house guests.
Thank you, Vlasta. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Guillaume, Hannah, Mollye, Helena. Thank you, PJ. Thank you, Hotel Josef. Thank you, Guardian. Thank you, Czech Airlines. Thank you, city of Prague.

 
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website
Jim Haynes
6th June 2008

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

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