Jaroslav Seifert

Jaroslav Seifert
(1901 - 1986)

Poet and journalist who in 1984 became the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Seifert made a living as a journalist until 1950, but his first book of poetry, Mesto v slzach ("City in Tears"), was published in 1920. His early proletarian poetry reflects his youthful expectations for the future of communism in the Soviet Union. As he matured, however, Seifert became less enchanted with that system of government, and his poetic themes began to evolve. In Na vlnach T.S.F. (1925; "On Wireless Waves") and Slavik zpiva spatne (1926; "The Nightingale Sings Wrong"), more lyrical elements of so-called pure poetry were evident. In 1929 Seifert broke with the Communist Party.

The history and other aspects of Czechoslovakia were the most common subjects of his poetry. In Zhasnete svetla (1938; "Switch Off the Lights") he wrote about the Munich agreement by which part of Czechoslovakia was annexed to Germany. Prague was the subject of Svetlena odena (1940; "Clothed in Light"), and the Prague uprising of 1945 provided the focus of Prilba hliny (1945; "The Helmet of Clay"). In addition to writing about 30 volumes of poetry, Seifert contributed to several journals and wrote children's literature. In 1966 he was named Poet of the Nation, and he was one of several writers, later silenced, who condemned the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. His memoirs were published in 1981.


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