Today, I would like to tell you another good way to adapt to a new culture--and that is by reading the literature produced by that culture. No matter what (modern-day) culture you are looking at, there will be stories--some handed down for generations by mouth, and others that have been put into print. The Czechs have a long and rich history of story-telling and writing.
Czech writing began with the coming of Cyril and Methodius to the Czech lands. They were sent by Byzantine Emperor Michael III to bring Christianity to the Czech lands sometime in the 8th century. Cyril and Methodius actually arrived in the kingdom of Greater Moravia, but when they did, they created the first alphabet for the Slavic language--called Old Slavonic. They used this new alphabet to translate the Latin liturgy into the Slavic language. This translation is one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the Czech lands.
Since moving here, I have been delving into any Czech literature that I can find translated into English. My Czech is still very poor, so I wouldn't be able to understand the original works in Czech at this point. Even reading them in English, though, helps me to gain a deeper understanding into the culture and the Czech people. I am really looking forward to when I can actually read and understand these pieces of literature in their original Czech! I'm studying, but it will take some time for my proficiency to get to that point!
One of the books I'm reading right now is a compilation of Czech fairy tales written by Bozena Nemcova, Karel Jaromire Erben, and Vaclav Benes-Trebizsky. I have fallen in love with these fairy tales. They are slightly different than the Grimms we know in the west. Czech fairy tales are very "gritty" and earthy, but have such a beauty to them--reading them is like looking at some fine pieces of Czech cut crystal--you see so much depth and beauty in the light shinging through the stories--and they form a wonderful design full of color and brilliance--giving a good background and insight into the Czech lands and the Czech people.
I'm a voracious reader, and usually have several books that I'm working on at one time! In addition to the book of Czech fairy tales, I'm also reading a very famous book (here--but not widely known outside of the Czech Republic) named Babicka, by Bozena Nemcova. This book appears, when you first begin reading, to be a very quaint story about a lovely grandmother (babicka)who is involved in the lives of her daughter and the daughter's family. She is a wise woman in the sense of having much experience, she is very religious and has a deep and simple faith...she does good to everyone. Yet, if you look, you will find that "gritty" and earthy beauty of the story. You find this when grandmother is feeling sad about her husband who had died many years ago from a war injury...she speaks of how she took care of her family during that war...nursing her husband after his injury. It is a very moving tale. There are many other examples of this earthiness and grittiness in the story...I'm only about half way through the book...but I have fallen in love with it...and this will definitely join my library of all-time favorites, along with War and Peace and the travelogues of Isabella Bird.
I'll tell you more about this book and others as I read them...but I just wanted to tell you about Czech literature--and how rich and deep is their story-telling and writing history. It is one of the richest treasures I have found since coming here...reading Czech literature is giving me an education into the people and the lands where I have come to live, and it also gives me some insight into my own Czech and Slovak heritage.
That's all for today...you all have a great day!
(c) 2008 by czechoffthebeatenpath