A CEERES of Events: Paul Wilson - "The Gentle Barbarian" - Esther Peters

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson will discuss The Gentle Barbarian. He will be joined in conversation by Esther Peters.

Presented in partnership with the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES)

Virtual event


About the book: The Gentle Barbarian is Bohumil Hrabal’s homage to Vladimír Boudník, one of the greatest Czech artists of the 1950s and 1960s, whose life came to a tragic end shortly after the Soviet invasion of 1968. Boudník and Hrabal had a close and often contentious friendship. For a brief period, in the early 1950s, they worked together in the Kladno steel works and lived in the same building in Prague. Written in the early seventies, Hrabal’s anecdotal portrait of Boudník includes another controversial member of that early group of the Czech avantgarde: the poet Egon Bondy. While Hrabal and Bondy were evolving their aesthetic of “total realism,” Boudník developed his own artistic approach, “Explosionalism,” in which the boundaries between life and art become blurred, and everyday events take on the appearance and the substance of art. Hrabal’s portrait of Boudník captures the strange atmosphere of a time in which the traditional values and structures of everyday life in Czechoslovakia were being radically dismantled by the Communists. But as The Gentle Barbarian demonstrates, creative spirits are able to reject, ignore, or burrow beneath the superficial “revolutionary” atmosphere of the time and find humor, inspiration, and a kind of salvation amid its general intellectual and creative poverty.

About the author: Paul Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer, magazine editor, radio producer and translator. He has translated major works by Josef Škvorecký, Václav Havel, and Ivan Klíma into English. His translations of Bohumil Hrabal include I Served the King of England, Mr. Kafka and Other Takes From the Time of the Cult, and All My Cats. Hrabal’sThe Gentle Barbarian is his most recent publication.  He lives in Ontario.

About the interlocutor: Esther Peters received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2014. In 2015 she returned to the University as Outreach and Campus Programing Coordinator for the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, where she is currently serving as the Center’s Associate Director.

About the Series: CEERES, pronounced /ˈsirēz/, is the acronym for the University of Chicago Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies. Together with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, we are delighted to announce the launch of the CEERES of Voices Event Series, an author-centered series of readings and conversations on books from or about Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Eurasia, and the Caucasus. The books being discussed are identified in a various ways: through publishers’ contacts with the bookstore or through faculty requests to CEERES to host the author.

Event Location: