Ambassador Žantovský (b. 3 January 1949) studied psychology at Charles University in Prague and at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He graduated summa cum laude in 1973. He went on to work as a research assistant and later as a research fellow at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague. He conducted research and published in the fields of nonverbal behaviour and theory of motivation.
From 1980, he worked as a freelance translator and author. He has translated into Czech more than fifty works of contemporary English and American fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, including works by Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, James Baldwin, Edgar Doctorow, Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer and Tom Stoppard. He published a book on the life and films of Woody Allen. He was a contributor to the Samizdat press. From 1988, he was the Prague correspondent of Reuters.
In 1989, he was a founding member of the Czech chapter of PEN, the international organization of writers and translators, banned in Czechoslovakia during the communist era. In November 1989, he was a founding member, and in December, a spokesman, of the Civic Forum, an umbrella organization that coordinated the overthrow of the communist regime.
In January 1990, he became the press secretary and spokesman for President Václav Havel. He was also the political director of the President’s office. In July 1992, he was appointed the Czechoslovak Ambassador to the United States, and in January 1993 reappointed as the Czech Ambassador to the United States where he served until February 1997.
In November 1996, he was elected to the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic from a Prague district. In 1996, and again in 1998 and 2000, he was elected the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Senate. In 1997 and in 2001 he was elected the President of the Civic Democratic Alliance, a parliamentary political party. He completed his term in the Senate in 2002 and returned to Foreign Service.
In 2003-2009 he served as the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Israel. In October 2009 he was appointed as the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Court of St. James‘s.
As a writer, teacher and translator he has continued to pursue his interests in literature, foreign policy and political theory. From Hebrew, he translated into Czech the celebrated memoirs of Amos Oz, The Tale of Love and Darkness. His latest translations include works by Henry Kissinger, Joshua Muravchik and Madeleine Albright. In 2003, he co-founded the new Prague-based think-tank Program of Atlantic Security Studies (PASS) and served as its first executive director. He has taught American studies at Charles University in Prague and Euro-American relations at the Prague branch of the New York University. In 2012, he became the president of the new Aspen Institute Prague.
Ambassador Žantovský has four children: Ester (1980), Jonas (1984), David (2001), and Rebeka (2003). He is married to Jana Žantovská, a prize-winning news and portrait photographer.