30 March 2011

Slovakia in History

I don't recall ever being to a book launch before. I've been to several private viewings at galleries and the like but never a book launch. The book that broke this enviable record was Slovakia in History and I was invited because of my Czech/Slovak interests.

Though, to be honest, I accepted the invitation more because it was being held at the Slovak Embassy than anything else. This meant that I was guaranteed to see some familiar and friendly faces and also that the associated reception would be worth the trip.

The launch took the form of a speakers' panel with the three editors, Mikuláš Teich of Robinson College, Cambridge, Dušan Kováč, of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Martin Brown of The American International University in London. Martin is a BCSA member and is a regular speaker at our events.

The three editors each gave us a perspective on how they approached the book and told us something of its history; the idea of doing a history book on Slovakia in English was first mooted some fifteen years ago.

The first problem encountered is defining what is meant by Slovakia in the context of history. Slovakia is firmly in Central Europe and its changing borders have been part of several large empires over the centuries, notably the Austro-Hungarian.

Similarly the Slovak people and their customs are not so easily defined with their close relationships to their Slavic cousins in the neighbouring Czech Republic and Poland and to the Hungarians to the south.

One word of caution though, this is an academic book and is priced accordingly.

To complement the book we had a music interlude of Slovak folk songs arranged for piano and violin. That went down very well.

After the speeches and a Q&A session came the reception and once again the Slovak Embassy put on a good show.

I love the building with it's main reception room that has glass doors to the garden on one side, a mezzanine floor, a strange glass light and lots of lovely rough concrete.

The space is also quite flexible and was arranged very differently from the previous visit just the week before. The layout also encourages you to flow around the room and to mix with other people, which is the main point of receptions like this for me.

A simple, pleasant evening with a fond concoction of history, culture and conversations. This is why I go out at night.

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