The French translator and expert in Czech studies Xavier Galmiche was awarded the Premia Bohemica for 2020. It is a prize that the Moravian Library on behalf of the Ministry of Culture annually awards to a scholar or translator who has significantly contributed to the promotion of Czech literature in their own country. The winner is selected by a committee formed by prominent Czech scholars and former laureates of Premia Bohemica.
Xavier Galmiche (born 1963) lectures Czech literature and Central European cultures at the department of Slavic studies at the University of Sorbonne. He lived in Prague between in the mid 1980s (1984-1986), and soon after he embarked on his publishing career. He earned the acclaim of Czech academic circles with his monograph on Vladimir Holan: Vladimír Holan, le bibliothécaire de Dieu: Prague 1905-1980 (2009), which was translated into Czech in 2012.
For years now, has Galmiche shown academic interest in a number of prominent Czech writers and has translated the works of Karel Čapek, Bohumil Hrabal, Vladimír Holan, Jan Vladislav, Jakub Deml, Karel Jaromír Erben, or even Johann Amos Comenius. Among other less notorious authors, he translated texts by Czech aesthetics such as Jan Mukařovský, Josef Durdík, and Otakar Zich as well as artists such as Josef Váchal and Bohuslav Reynek.
The Czech literary critic and historian Professor Petr Bílek commented on Galmiche’s interpretations: “His take on the Czech authors is original, unconventional and at the same time crucial and thought-provoking. Since the late 1980s, when his first works were published, Xavier Galmiche has been the bridge between his own French culture and his sensitive translation of the Czech culture he had embraced. His experience and creativity enable him to transcend the limits of Czech culture itself; his interpretations, enrich the both the Czech literary context as well as the foreign one.”
Normally the award would be announced at the Colloquium of Czech Studies, an event for scholars interested in Czech studies from all over the world, annually held by the Moravian Library since 2016. This year, however, the colloquium did not take place, having been cancelled because of the pandemic.
An alternative arose to present Xavier Galmiche with the prize in early November during the visit of the director of the Moravian Library Tomáš Kubíček in Paris; a gala dinner was supposed to be held, with the assistance of the Czech centre in Paris, attended by the Czech ambassador Michel Fleischmann. However, these plans, too, were thwarted by the pandemic and thus the prize will probably not be handed over before February 2021. “We are all sorry, of course, that the awards ceremony could not be held, but the importance of Professor Galmiche’s work will outlast even Covid. Thus we have agreed to present the award at a later time. Regarding that the prize is for the year 2020, however, we have decided to officially announce the award winner now,” explains Tomáš Kubíček, director of the Moravian Library.
Premia Bohemica is a literary award handed out since 1993. Until 2001 it was the Czech Literary Foundation who awarded the prize, while in 2002–2011 it was the Czech Writers’ Union. In 2017 the award was reintroduced and ever since the Moravian Library oversees the award nomination. One of our chief reasons for granting the award is to express gratitude for the efforts to spread Czech literature and culture abroad.
Former laureates of Premia Bohemica include fugures such as Susanna Roth (1993), Oleg Malevič (1998), Christa Rothmeier (1999), Reiner Kunze (2004), István Vörös (2005), Edgar de Bruin (2008), Andrzej Czcibor-Piotrowski (2011), Urs Heftrich (2017), and most recently the Italian scholar Professor Annalisa Cosentino (2019).