This Little Mother Has Claws

Prague doesn't let go. This little mother has claws…. One has to give in or else.

—Franz Kafka, born in Prague on this day in 1883; but for the months spent in sanitariums and a half-year spent with a girlfriend, Kafka lived in Prague with his parents all his life, working as a claims adjustor for an insurance company

July 3, 1937: Tom Stoppard (originally Tomas Straussler) is born in Czechoslovakia — not Prague but Zlin. Stoppard’s family left the country before he was two, fleeing the Nazis, but he has returned to his roots in a number of plays, most recently, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Decades earlier, his Cahoot’s Macbeth, a play dedicated to and about the dissident Czech playwright Pavel Kohout, dealt with the same politics — Cold War communism and the Velvet Revolution. Banned from Prague’s public playhouses during the 1970s, Kohout developed the “Living Room Theater,” a small troupe of actors who would put on plays in any home that would dare have them, quietly arriving with all their props and costumes with them in one suitcase. Cahoot’s Macbeth is about one such performance and the efforts of a communist inspector, who has had the activities of the LRT under surveillance for some time, to stop it. The inspector is part stooge and part spectator-critic — he wants to close the show down, but not before he’s had some fun and aired his views:


MACDUFF: O horror, horror, horror!
Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
INSPECTOR: What’s your problem, sunshine? Don’t tell me you’ve found a corpse—I come here to be taken out of myself, not to be shown a reflection of the banality of my own life. Why don’t you go out and come in again. I’ll get out of the way. Is this seat taken?
HOSTESS: I’m afraid the performance is not open to the public.
INSPECTOR: I should hope not indeed. That would be acting without authority—acting without authority!—you’d never believe I make it up as I go along … Right!—sorry to have interrupted. [He sits down. Pause] Any time you’re ready….


Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.