She was closest to Karel Gott of all the people. She bore him two daughters and was by his side in good times and bad. And it’s been almost twenty years. She experienced his joys and sorrows and was a great support to him at a time when it was clear that our most historically popular singer was unfortunately leaving for eternity. I talked not only with the singer’s wife Ivana Gottová about the narrative autobiography My Journey for Happiness, which will be published on July 14. That is, on the day of the singer’s undead 82nd birthday.
You are known not to provide interviews. Why did you make an exception in this case?
I had no reason to talk for several years. I didn’t have anything on my heart to say publicly . After leaving Prima TV in 2015, I decided that I wanted to take full care of my family and the care of my sick husband. But I think now is the time to make an exception and get out of my privacy for a while. I kept the promise I made to my dear husband, and in addition to the film documentary, Karel also brought his autobiographical book My Journey for Happiness . That’s why I decided to give an interview after many years. But I do not plan another interview.
When did you actually start perceiving Karel Gott?
From his earliest childhood. Every little child knew him, his songs were played everywhere. Well, at least at home. His mother often played his long-playing records. I remember letting them clean up every Saturday. I wiped the dust and sang with “Kája” – go to the ground looking for diamonds’ I’ll . How would I have thought that I would marry this singer one day !? I was a little girl and Karel was a man at his most productive age, with a lot of life experience.
You see – and in the end you have found your way to you…
I believe that souls know long in advance who they belong to. And when the time is right, they will find, no matter what body boxes they are in. Many initially tapped their foreheads because of our age difference. Although we both always cared what others thought, in this case we had our heads. Allied souls simply get to know each other, although sometimes they have to wait for each other for a while. The important thing is that they have found each other and can be together again. Yes, I say again. I believe that life does not end with death, I believe in reunion.
Did your husband have the same opinion?
Karel used to doubt, but he reconsidered the disease a lot. As he left, he believed he would meet those who had gone before him and whom he loved. And once again with me… With love and humility I was grateful for every moment at his side. The advent of disease has taught us that nothing is taken for granted. We rejoiced every day, every moment. We lived in the present, but also in the past. Charles’ rich history. In the moments when he was writing his autobiography, he started telling me about his whole long and supremely fulfilled life. He wished he had a gift left for his loyal fans, and decided to give the book of memories as much effort as he could.
When did Karel Gott start working on his autobiography?
In fact, already in 2002, when he started discussing the book with Arnošt Lustig. Despite the efforts of both parties, there was no agreement in the end. At that time, Karel stopped preparing the book, but not completely. He kept coming back to her, making notes here and there. He returned to her more intensively after 2015, when he overcame his first serious illness. This exacerbated his need to work on the book, to write his story.
How did his work on the book actually go?
He went through his diaries, read older interviews, and years later pulled out his book I Say It with Songs and How Gott Sees It . He read them carefully again, looking at his historical performances on the Internet to recall the ancient past. And he also talked to many friends at home or in our cottage to remember various performances, trips abroad or holidays. After all, he has experienced so much in his life…
Good. But what exactly did the work on autobiography look like?
Probably the most important phase was when he was creating the concept of the book, what it will look like. Karel read many different autobiographies, saying what reads better and what worse, which book also looks nice with its pictorial part and which, on the contrary, seems boring to him. After some time, he finally decided that it should be a story, ie an autobiography written in fiction style, which will be interspersed with many photographs and other documents, which we then managed to obtain. He arranged with the renowned author of books on Czech history, Petr Hora Hořejš, for the stylistic supervision of his text. But before they cooperated, they met and talked several times. The topics did not revolve only around the book, ie about what it should look like, but about everything possible, especially about the history that connected the two, because Karel was a passionate reader of history books. It was important that they sit humanly as well. And that happened, and so it all went to Charles’ great satisfaction.
was also filmed Charles . Did the work on the book and the film overlap in anything?
Of course, because both Olga Malířová-Špátová’s film and the book are based on his life. Filming also took place in the archives, for example of the capital city of Prague, where Karel viewed his certificates. The reader will also find these materials and some other rare archival materials in the book.
Towards the end of Karel Gott’s life, his strength was clearly diminishing. Did he manage to finish everything he wanted?
I think yes. He worked on the book until the last moment, even when he was not feeling well. He had high temperatures and was having trouble breathing. However, his lifelong professionalism, conscientiousness and love for his fans did not allow him to leave his unfinished business. A few weeks before he left, even though he had all the chapters completed, he sometimes had some interesting things, so there were a few more boxes in the book. He also managed to choose a large part of the photos and dictate often funny captions to them. After that, he could leave with a clear conscience, because he trusted me to pick up the rest of the pictures for him and finish the book exactly according to his ideas .
Why is his autobiography published two years after his eternity?
After having to find the strength to organize the funeral and reverential farewell, I did not have the energy to return to the book for several months. The first days and weeks I needed to focus mainly on the children whose father had left and for whom I did not have much time due to the intensive care of my husband before he left. But then I went back to work. I approved the documentary Karel and saw the original seven-hour, uncut version many times. It was actually a kind of therapy for me, I surrounded myself with Karel completely for a year and a half – I heard his voice every day, I saw his photographs, archives, his texts all around…
And only then did you return to the book?
Yes, only when the film was finished. Although the texts and a large part of the photographs were together, a lot of other editorial work was needed. It was something completely new for me, I often groped, advised what and how to do. I kept getting new photographic and archival materials that I wanted to use in the book. After all, it’s my husband’s last book, which also maps his whole life. I cared that the publication was completely professional, on the same level as his performance. And to make matters worse, a covid came, who, like everyone else, disrupted my work plans. Because the book is also pictorial, I didn’t want it to be sold only over the internet. I wanted readers to be able to take her in the bookstore, flip through it, read it, and say, “That’s the story, Karl!”
Are there topics that Karel Gott preferred to avoid in his book? Or did he even face those very problematic, often painful? If so, what topics were they?
His sincerity and openness surprised me. For example, he was not afraid to talk directly about his illness or the departure of his parents. He also wanted to close the topics discussed by Anticharta or “training” emigration once and for all.
Do you think he would be just as open even if he wrote the book twenty or thirty years ago?
In my opinion, it would not be so open. Towards the end of his life he came to a great reconciliation. He no longer avoided topics he had not felt comfortable with before. He would never have shown his weaknesses before. But he wanted to leave a true statement behind, and complex topics belong to that. But if he didn’t open up, comment on more difficult times, and confront unpleasant things, his personality might not be fully understood.
What does Karel Gott pay the most attention to in his book? And how deep into the past does he go back? Until your childhood?
The book dates back to early childhood. He wished it was a bit of a chronicle for his daughters and grandchildren, so that they could read something about their ancestors in it. Thanks to the immediate family, there are also private photographs and information in the autobiography that have never been published before.
In the end, the book has a generous format, the text has grown literally under Karel Gott’s hands, as well as pictures, photographs and documents. When he started writing, did you know how extensive an autobiography would eventually come about?
None of us had any idea, Karel and I did not realize at the beginning how voluminous the work would be in the end.
Can you zoom in on the book’s documentation? As far as photos are concerned, as far as I know, you have taken great care to ensure that unknown or lesser-known images appear in the book. It is so?
Yes, we tried, but of course the husband has already boasted about the best films in the past in the public or in the media. So the repetition of some photos could not be prevented. But I believe that every generation will find its own in the book. For younger readers, even the most famous photos will be a novelty.
What interesting things did you come across when completing the picture page of the book? And what was the biggest problem?
As I said, we found out, for example, his old report cards, notes from primary school and conservatory. The husband probably once thought that if they burned these documents, no one would ever see them again. He was wrong. The copies were nicely stored in the archives. But in the end, he allowed readers of his autobiography to see them, even though his academic results were poor. We did not encounter any major problems, perhaps just finding licenses for photographs and finding out the authors of some of the images were sometimes a tough nut to crack. Graphic artist Honza Zachariáš had a holy patience with me, because during the last year during the completion of the book, new and new images or photographs came into my hands. And it often happened that he had the chapter done graphically long ago, and I hurried with other materials that, as I liked to say, “the world did not see.” And he, the poor man, then had to fit in, even the whole chapter, from the beginning.
This is understandable, no doubt you wanted Karel to be as satisfied as possible with the book up there.
Before leaving, Karel promised to help me with the book from heaven. I think he kept it. I could feel both the search and selection of the rest of the photos and the graphic design of the book with me at all times. I also perceived him when I had to complete some necessary captions for the pictures for him, which would not be possible without them. But as I mentioned, he still managed to formulate most of them himself, which readers will surely know from his typical humor.
You have also included texts written by Charles in the book…
Yes, it occurred to me and the graphic artist Honza did not mind that it could be a revival for fans and readers to see in the book her written sentences, titles or lyrics. They are from different periods of his life, so they often have a different writing style. We also added his handwritten notes, which he made when editing texts in printed chapters. We hoped that it would be interesting for the readers, and we believe that someone would not mind complaining about the book, saying that someone had scribbled it… A couple of my friends did not immediately understand that all the written words in the book were written by my husband, so every handwritten word in My Journey to Happiness is written only by Karel Gott.
What did you find the hardest, the most difficult at finishing?
The most difficult thing was clearly that the author of the book left before its publication. And he was also my beloved husband. I was aware that Charles’ book must be completed and published according to his wishes. I approached the work with great respect and reverence, given the precious time he devoted to his book and the importance he attached to it. Fortunately, I had a great team of collaborators on hand who helped me get the book up to date.
Why did you decide to make a video instead of the baptism with excerpts from the book?
I am aware that it is common to ceremoniously baptize books of this format, but in view of the fact that the author can no longer be present at baptism, I have chosen an alternative that I find unique, original. Eight personalities – men whom Karel respected and loved – read selected excerpts from his book. With one exception in the environment of his home. With his favorite coffee, wherever an autobiography was made. Libor Bouček, our family friend and great professional, connected all the videos with cordial and special comments. The entire video, which is almost half an hour long, will be published on July 14, the day of Charles’ undead 82nd birthday. From 10.00 on the YouTube channel of Supraphon.
Karel Gott’s dizzying artistic career has virtually no parallel on our music scene. After you were so close to Karel Gott, and after dealing with his text and the visual accompaniment of the book… Why do you think this was the case?
He was an honest, sincere, kind and industrious man with immense diligence, talent, exceptional voice, nobility and charisma. My husband never wanted to disappoint his fans and supporters. He loved them, respected them, and they knew it. Like me, I know how much people miss Karel. Since his departure, I have felt as if the world has gone a little crazy, and because of the pandemic, isolation and separation from loved ones, people have lost joy. In times when certainties cease to be certainties and chaos reigns, people cling to fixed points, looking back to where they were well. That fixed point, standing, in my opinion, was my husband.
What are your plans for next?
I don’t want to plan anything for a while now. After several years of both private and hard work, I need to stop and take a deep breath. I want to focus mainly on daughters who are growing up before my eyes and for whom I haven’t had much time lately due to projects related to Karel. Fortunately, they are understanding and tolerant. They know that I promised their father that I would complete all the projects. But I would also like to watch a nice movie and read a nice book. After a long time other than Karl’s autobiography My Journey to Happiness , although it is a book of my favorites.
Of course, I sometimes interrupt the rest with activities related to other projects. In the autumn, together with our Karel Gott Agency and the film distributor, Bontonfilm, we are preparing – for the epidemiological situation several times – the ceremonial premiere of our film documentary Karel and its release on cinema on 7 October. Subsequently, on June 19 and 20 next year, the 2 has been postponed several times Tribute to Karel Gott , which will be attended by a plethora of wonderful singers and friends.
And what will happen then will show time. I certainly want to take care of the legacy of my deceased husband with the same love that I took care of him until the last moment. Karel was the love of my life and nothing will ever change again.
Autobiography My Journey to Happiness is just entering the book market. What would you like to wish this large-format publication to Karel Gott’s readers and supporters on her pilgrimage?
Releasing Karl’s autobiography with his inspirational story of a fulfilled life journey is, I think, the least I can do for Karel and his supporters. I cannot describe my gratitude to all the people who loved him, admired him and were a support to him in difficult times, even at a distance. He felt and perceived their love. Thanks to her, he left in peace, reconciled and balanced, in the arms of my and our daughters. So perhaps the book will delight them and make them happy. I believe that everyone will remember Karel, just like me and our daughters, only with love in their hearts. And as he said: It’s not a coincidence, it’s luck that someone sends out. However, it can only be one day, and you must not miss it!
Interview conducted by: Miloš Skalka
Photo: Lenka Hatašová / Karel Gott Agency