Vlastimil Vondruška, PhDr., CSc.
I was born in Kladno, close to Prague, in 1955 and studied history and ethnology at the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague. I finished my postgraduate studies at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1982. I worked for a time at the National Museum in Prague, where I was the author of numerous exhibitions (for Prague Castle as well). As soon as communism fell in Czechoslovakia, I went into business. Together with my wife Alena (also a publicist and writer), we started the Royal Glassworks in Doksy, where we manufacture replicas of historical glass. We ran it until 2009, when we both decided to devote ourselves entirely to writing. We have been honored by the Minister of Culture for our work in the field of glassmaking. Apart from literature, my interests include mountain climbing (active in this field for more than 20 years), recreational sports, traveling, splitting wood and my dog.
I have been involved with writing intermittently since I was young. To date I have published over 50 scientific studies and articles on the history of material culture, 15 books on science and informative topics (the most successful include Life in the Twelfth Century, Life in the Thirteenth Century, Life in the Fourteenth Century, Church Year and Folk Customs, Glassmaking, Intimate History, Life in the Middle Ages for Young People). Above all, I have written more than 30 historical novels for adults and several books for young people. I am the author of two plays and the screenwriter for the film In the King’s Name. I sometimes appear on Czech Radio and perform with singer Petr Traxler on the show Songs and Tales from the Middle Ages (more than 100 broadcasts). Two radio plays have been based on my novels and I am the author of a four-part DVD documentary called Folk Year. For my work, I have been honored by the Czech Literary Fund, have received the IBBY’s Gold Ribbon award, SUK Librarians’ award and 5 readers’ prizes from MOBA publishing house.
More than 400,000 copies of my novels have been sold on the Czech market (not including my science and popular instruction books). Even though statistics never reflect the actual story, in this case it shows that every 25th person in this country has one of my novels.
Why I love the Middle Ages and write about it
For me it is a fascinating time, because life then was different than what we read about it in textbooks. These tend to describe only tedious facts, but history is more than just a collection of the names and dates of rulers. It offer s a glimpse into the lives and fate of people, be they heroic, sad or just plain ordinary, all of them full of the deep wisdom and experience of our ancestors. Historical science can be a bit dull sometimes, because it shows no interest in psychology. But it is psychology which is at the root of the Middle Ages. The people had few possessions, they had to toil till they dropped just to eke out a living, and they had to struggle to defend their freedom. Still, they were happy, laughing and enjoying themselves, honoring truth, and helping each other in time of need. They didn’t whine; they took life as it was, without illusions and prejudices. They could take care of themselves (which no one else would do for them in any case, since there was no social safety net). How different from modern times! If medieval man had not been like that, who knows how Christian Europe would have turned out, with Muslims applying pressure on one side, the Eastern Orthodox Church on the other, pagans in the north, the people beleaguered at home by domestic wars, the Black Plague, and famine. The people of the Middle Ages did not hide behind rules, regulations, political excuses, activist stunts, comfort and self-deceit. These were people who could not afford sensitivity and sentiment. Their manners were a bit rough, but their hearts were big and honor was just as important to their bodies as health. If only we could honor the traditions of our ancestors more!