Milada Blekastad


1st July a daughter Milada is born into the family of the publisher František Topič in Prague. Her father Jaroslav Topič, the son of František Topič, has been part of the family business’s leadership since 1913. Her mother Milada Topičová has been employed in the publishing house, later on, after it had been sold, she founded the Topič Edition Publishing House, wrote cookery books and translated.


Until 1933, Milada attends the High School for Girls in Prague, she never completes her studies.


Milada gets an invitation from Gunnvor Krokann, the wife of the Norwegian writer Inge Krokann, and takes her first journey to Norway. She is sixteen and she teaches the children of the farmer on whose farm she lives.


Milada marries the Norwegian painter Hallvard Blekastad in Prague. They spend some years in Lom, later on they build a house in Hallvard’s birthplace in Gausdal, which they call Bu (meaning “home”).


The first of their seven children is born, the son Ivar Bygg.


The F. Topič Publishing House publishes Milada’s first translation, the historical novel In the Snow of Dovre by Inge Krokann (Praha: F. Topič).


Milada’s father Jaroslav Topič dies.


After the sale of F. Topič Publishing House to Jaroslav Stránský, Milada’s mother continues the publishing tradition in a new company called Topičova edice (Topič Edition Publishing House).


The second son, Tor Arin, is born.


Milada Blekastad’s Czech translation of Tarjei Vesaas’ novel Black Horses is published (Praha: Topičova edice.)


Milada Blekastad publishes a book of Czech fairy tales Tsjekkiske eventyr (Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget), her first translation from Czech to Norwegian. It is a selection of fairy tales by Božena Němcová, Karel Jaromír Erben and Beneš Metod Kulda with the illustrations by Mikoláš Aleš.


Milada’s grandfather František Topič dies.


The third son, Grimalde Jan, is born.


The Topič Edition Publishing House publishes another translation by Milada Blekastad, Inge Krokanns novel Through the Snowdrifts.


The fourth son, Hallvard Hogne, is born.


Milada Blekastad’s translation of Jan Karafiát’s book Fireflies (Billefolket, Oslo: Dreyer).


The first daughter, Ragnhild Unn, is born.


The fifth son, Vidar Bendik Christopher, is born.


The last of the seven children, daughter Live Maria, is born.


Another book of fairy tales in Milada Blekastad’s translation is published in Norway. The book Tsjekkiske og slovakiske eventyr (Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget) comprises both Czech and Slovak fairy tales.


Milada Blekastad’s translation of Comenius’s Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart (Verdsens labyrint og hjartans paradis, Oslo: Dreyer) is published. Professor Olaf Broch and associate professor Arne Gallis from the University of Oslo find it interesting, and Milada Blekastad receives a research scholarship to study Comenius’s life and work. It results in a doctoral thesis and an extensive monograph about Comenius in 1969.


Until 1987, Milada Blekastad lectures at the University of Oslo on the history of Czech literature. The lectures are later published in two volumes.


The first volume of lectures on Czech literature Between East and West (Millom aust og vest, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget) is published.


Several translations of works by Karel Čapek, a renowned Czech writer, are published in Norway. The book Czech Fairy Tales (Tsjekkiske eventyr, Oslo: Fonna) comprises three fairy tales by Karel Čapek, The Postman’s Fairy Tale, The Second Robber’s Tale and The Great Police Tale. In the same year the same publishing house publishes his novels Meteor (Meteor, Oslo: Fonna) and The Absolute at Large (Atomkraft på ville vegar, Oslo: Fonna).


Milada’s mother, Milada Topičová, dies.


Milada Blekastad’s Norwegian translation of Josefa Bor’s short story The Terezín Requiem (Rekviem i Terezin, Oslo: Dreyer) is published.


Hallvard Blekastad dies.


In September, an international Comenius conference is held in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia, with focus on Comenius’s General Consultation on an Improvement of All Things Human. 133 scholars from 17 countries meet there. Milada Blekastad presents a paper on the composition of the work General Consultation and strengthens her relations with Czech Comenius scholars Jan Patočka, Antonín Škarka and Julie Nováková.


The novel The Axe (Øksa, Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget) by the Czech writer Ludvík Vaculík is published in Milada Blekastad’s translation. The Norwegian publishing house invites the author on the occasion of the book release to Norway, he comes together with his wife Madla and they meet Milada Blekastad. Thus, a lifelong warm friendship begins which is marked by frequent visits, mainly in Dobřichovice. Later, Ludvík Vaculík commented on Milada Blekastad and her translations in an interview for the Czech newspaper Lidové noviny: “Her life story and her work show how awkward it is that the presence of a national literature on foreign territory depends on one, single person.” (Lidové noviny, 8th July 1997).


Milada Blekastad gets in contact with the Czech dissent and begins translating samizdat literature. In August 1968, she continually informs the Norwegian media about the current situation in occupied Czechoslovakia.


Milada Blekastad’s translation of Ivan Klíma’s An Hour of Silence (En times taushet, Oslo: Cappelen) is published.


The translation of Ludvík Vaculík’s novel The Axe wins Milada Blekastad Bastianprisen, the prize of the Union of Norwegian Translators.


She receives the title of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oslo. The title of her thesis is Comenius. Versuch eines Umrisses von Leben, Werk und Schicksal des Jan Amos Komenský. The primary readers for the thesis defence were the renowned Czech philosopher Jan Patočka and the Norwegian literary historian Erik Krag.


Milada Blekastad gets a Norwegian state scholarship, which enables her lifelong scholarly work.


Another book by Ludvík Vaculík, The Guinea Pigs (Marsvin, Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget), is published in Blekastad’s translation.


The Theatre of Workers in Gottwaldov, Czechoslovakia, sets up the drama A Ballad on Hilebia (Childless) by the Norwegian literary historian Erik Krag in Milada Blekastad’s translation.


Milada Blekastad’s Norwegian translation of Milan Kundera’s novel Life is Elsewhere (Livet er et annet sted, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag) is published.


The second volume of lectures on Czech literature under the title Between Bark and Wood (Millom bork og ved; Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget) is published.


Milada Blekastad publishes her Norwegian translation of Milan Kundera’s The Farewell Waltz (Avskjedsvalsen, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag).


Shortly after the death of the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka, Milada Blekastad in cooperation with the Norwegian philosopher Tore Frost translates Patočka’s Heretical Essays to Norwegian and contributes to the publishing of a collection of Patočka’s philosophical essays under the title Heretical Essays in the History of Philosophy. With a Pendant: Jan Patočka and Charter 77 (Kjetterske studier i historiens filosofi med et tillegg: Jan Patočka og Charta 77, Oslo: Tanum-Norli, 1979). Milada Blekastad herself suggests the publication – as the result of her long professional and personal contacts with this Czech philosopher.


Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Latterens og glemselens bok, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag) is published in Blekastad’s translation.


Another translation to Norwegian by Milada Blekastad, a psychological novel Living Paralell (I dødvanne, Oslo: Cappelen) by the Czech persecuted writer Alexandr Kliment, is published.


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of her husband’s birth, Milada Blekastad publishes a monograph entitled Hallvard Blekastad: Flashes from the Life of an Artist (Hallvard Blekastad: Glimt frå eit kunstnarliv, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget).


Her Norwegian translation of Václav Havel’s Letters to Olga: Thoughts from Prison (Brev til Olga: tanker fra fengslet, Oslo: Aschehoug) comes out.


Milada Blekastad receives a prize from Charter 77 for the translations of samizdat literature.


In Norway, her translation of Václav Havel’s book Remote interrogation. Conversation with Karel Hvížďala (Fjernforhør: samtale med Karel Hvíždala, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag) comes out.


Milada Blekastad translates three of Václav Havel’s plays (Audience, Protest, Unveiling) and an introductory essay A Word About Words for the Gyldendal Publishing House. They then get published in the collection Vaněk-Trillogy: introduced by the essay “A Word About Words” (Vaněk-trilogien: innledet av essayet „Et ord om ordet”, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag).


Another work by Havel that is published in Norwegian translation by Milada Blekastad is Living in Truth (Forsøk på å leve i sannhet, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag).


On 3rd and 4th April 1992 there is an international conference held at the University of Uppsala on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of J.A. Comenius’s birth. Milada Blekastad is one of its initiators and presents the introductory paper.


Milada Blekastad is awarded a commemorative medal of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of J.A.Comenius’s birth .


Milada Blekastad’s Norwegian translation of the only book by Daniela Hodrová, a novel Utraquism (Dobbeltliv, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag) is published.


Milada Blekastad is a consultant for the production of Peer Gynt at the National Theatre in Prague, directed by her long-time friend Jan Kačer.


The Norwegian publishing house Ex libris publishes Karel Čapek’s Travels in the North (En reise til Norden, Oslo: Ex libris), translated by Milada Blekastad and Katrine Blekastad.


Czech president Václav Havel awards Milada Blekastad with the Medal of Merit for her lifelong achievement.


Milada Blekastad founds the František Topič Foundation. The main aim of the Foundation has been to support young scholars and other creative personalities who are active especially in the fields of Czech literature, history and philosophy, through scholarships.


Milada Blekastad dies in Oslo on 25th October. According to her wishes, she is buried in the tomb of the Topič family in the Olšanské hřbitovy graveyard in Prague.

(compiled by Adéla Mertlová)