Paul Wilson


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Prague: A Traveller's Literary Companion

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Biography of Paul Wilson

PAUL WILSON is a writer, editor, radio producer and translator of Czech literature.

Born in Ontario and educated at the University of Toronto and King's College, University of London, England, he spent ten years in Czechoslovakia (1967-1977) where he taught English and learned Czech. He was eventually expelled by the Communist government for his association with the dissident movement, particularly for his involvement with the underground music scene as a member of the legendary rock band, The Plastic People of the Universe.

On his return to Canada, he was active in promoting the work of dissident writers and musicians during the remaining years of totalitarianism. He founded a record company to publish the music of The Plastic People and other Czech underground musicians. He also began writing for magazines and became a regular contributor to Shades, Books in Canada and The Idler magazine and was distinguished for his translations of Czech writers such as Josef Skvorecky Vaclav Havel, Ivan Klima, and Bohumil Hrabal.

He has contributed essays, articles and reviews to many North American and European publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, the National Post and other literary and general interest magazines. He was Associate Editor of The Idler magazine from 1988 to 1992 and Senior Editor of Saturday Night magazine from 1998 to 2001.

His translations are also familiar to readers of the New Yorker, Granta, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. His translation of The Engineer of Human Souls by Josef Skoverecky was awarded the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1984, and his translation of Ivan Klima's My Golden Trades was short-listed for the Independent newspaper's International Translation Award in 1993. In 1994, in recognition of his contribution
to Czech literature, he was invited to Prague as an honorary guest of the International PEN Conference, coinciding with the publication of his compilation of President Havel's most recent book: Vaclav Havel: Toward a Civil Society. Selected Speeches and Writings 1990-1994.

He edited and translated the English edition of We Are Children Just The Same, an anthology of writing from an underground newspaper published by teenaged boys in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, which won the National Jewish Book Award in 1995. In the same year, he edited an acclaimed anthology of short stories Prague: A Traveller's Literary Companion. In 1996 he accompanied His Excellency Romeo Leblanc as cultural advisor during the Governor General's official visit to Prague.

As a radio journalist, he has written and produced several major documentary series for CBC Radio, including, The Two Germanies (1986), and, with Gwynne Dyer, a seven-hour series on The Gorbachev Revolution (1989). He has worked as a producer on three national radio shows, The Arts Tonight, Morningside, and This Morning, where he produced interviews for Shelagh Rogers, Eleanor Wachtel, Peter Gzowski, Avril Benoit, Michael Enright and others.

Most recently, in 2001, he published his translation of Vaclav Havel's play The Beggar's Opera (Cornell University Press). He also translated the screenplay for the Anglo/Czech film Dark Blue Sky, written and directed by Academy Award winning Czech film makers, Jan and Zdenek Sverak, which premiered at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival.

He is a Research Associate for the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Toronto, where he has been a guest lecturer, as well as at The Ryerson School of Journalism and the Banff Magazine Workshop.

Paul Wilson is based in Toronto and Heathcote, Ontario, close to Georgian Bay where, when time allows, he sails his Herreschof H-28 and dreams of circumnavigating the globe.

He and his wife and editorial assistant, Patricia, have three children: Jake, a parliamentary intern in Ottawa, Miranda who is studying music in California, and Gavin who practices law in Calgary.

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