Jaroslav Seifert

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jaroslav Seifert 1981
Photo: Hana Hamplová

Jaroslav Seifert (born September 23, 1901 in Prague ; † January 10, 1986 there ) was a Czech poet , writer , journalist and translator.

In the early years he was an important exponent of Czech proletarian poetry , only to later become one of the most important poets of poetism . He was one of the founding members of the artist group Devětsil (Nine Forces) , an influential group within the Czechoslovak avant-garde movement. In 1984 Seifert was the only Czech so far to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature . The Jaroslav Seifert Prize is named after him.


Jaroslav Seifert with daughter Jana, 1931.

Jaroslav Seifert was born into a working class family in the Prague district of Žižkov . As a teenager he attended high school, but left school before graduating from high school to work as a journalist. During the 1920s he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and worked for the communist and avant-garde press of the time ( Rudé právo , Rovnost, Reflektor ). At the same time he was employed by the publishing house Družstevní práce , which specializes in art and design . After he had already spent a lot of time as a student writing poetry in Prague pubs for a beer, his first collection of poems appeared in 1921. As a founding member of the artist group Devětsil , he became its spokesman together with Karel Teige and in 1922 edited the Almanac Devětsil . At the same time he translated French-language poetry into Czech . By the end of the 1920s he was one of the most important representatives of the Czechoslovak art avant-garde.

In 1929 Seifert and six other communist writers signed the Manifesto of the Seven against the new leadership style in the Communist Party under Klement Gottwald and was then expelled from the party. As a result he joined the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party of Workers . From that year on he worked as editor of the Theater Revue Nová scéna , the magazine Panoráma and for the social democratic press. During the time of the German occupation of Czechoslovakia Seifert worked in the editorial department of the daily newspaper Národní práce and after 1945 as editor of the daily newspaper Práce . From 1946 to 1948 he edited the monthly cultural magazine Kytice .

Under the pressure of the Communist seizure of power , Seifert gave up his journalistic career in 1949 and from then on devoted himself exclusively to literature. At the same time, however, he continued to be involved in public. So he called on the communist regime to release captured writers. In this sense he also expressed himself at the writers' congress in 1956. He remained an uncomfortable but tolerated critic of the regime in the 1950s.

In the course of the Prague Spring , Seifert supported the reform efforts of the communist leadership and sharply condemned the invasion of the Warsaw Pact states in August 1968. In the same year he became chairman of the Czechoslovak Writers' Association and remained so until its dissolution in 1970. He refused to join the successor association his membership.

In the 1970s Seifert's literary activity was hindered. Only re-editions of his older works were allowed to be published, but not his new works. The restrictions increased after Seifert was one of the first to sign Charter 77 . He was forced to withdraw and from then on published his poetry regularly in samizdat . When his works were officially published again at the beginning of the 1980s, the censorship intervened in the text in places and also limited the number of copies.

Seifert's relief on his tombstone, signed Dalibor Plichta 86

In 1984 Jaroslav Seifert received the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his poetry which, with its fresh sensuality and rich inventiveness, gives a liberating image of human intransigence and diversity”. Due to his poor health, his daughter Jana had to accept the award. The state-controlled media had only a brief mention of this significant event.

Jaroslav Seifert died in Prague at the beginning of 1986. The state funeral threatened to grow into an anti-communist manifestation. The farewell took place in a church in the Břevnov district of Prague under the strict supervision of the Interior Ministry. Seifert's final resting place is in Kralupy nad Vltavou , a place not far from Prague, where his maternal grandparents came from. In July 1995 the asteroid (4369) Seifert was named after him. Since September 2010 there has been a memorial plaque dedicated to him on the house where Jaroslav Seifert lived from 1938 in Prague Břevnov on U Ladronky street .


Proletarian Poetry (selection)

  • Město v slzách / City in Tears (1921) - first work, describes the longing for a world without misery and hatred, wants to spread joy and heal.
  • Samá láska / Lauter Liebe (1923) - this anthology still belongs to proletarian poetry, but the first signs of thoughts that would later develop in poetism are visible in it. Seifert no longer devotes himself to drastic social images, but strives to unfold beauty in the form of love, eroticism and exoticism. Instead of condemning the big city, he develops a kind of admiration for it.
  • Básně / Poems (1929) - a selection compiled by the poet, published in an edition of 1,200 copies, the first hundred numbered copies were printed on handmade paper and signed by the poet and illustrator.

The time of poetism (selection)

  • Na vlnách TSF / On the waves of TSF (1925) - was created under the impression of his travels to the Soviet Union and France. This volume influenced the emerging poetism. They were later published under the title Svatební cesta . TSF stands for Télegraphie sans fil - d. H. wireless radio. The original typographic design by Karel Teige contributed to the great importance of this volume .
  • Slavík zpívá špatně (1926)
  • Poštovní holub (1929) - love for mother and home, feelings of skepticism, tragedy, but also nostalgia.
  • Hvězdy nad Rajskou zahradou (1929) - The park as a playground for the children from Žižkov, autobiographical sketch in which he admits to the deep influences of poetism. There are parallels to Vítězslav Nezval's work Z mého života .
  • Jablko z klína (1933) - this collection is slightly (itself) ironic and consists of lyrical poems. This volume represents a turning point in his work and thus created space for a path in which Seifert should break away from poetism. Nevertheless, the influence of poetism remained formative for Seifert until his death.
  • Ruce Venušiny (1936)
  • Jaro, sbohem (1937) - together with Ruce Venušiny , this volume suggests Seifert's return to political problems and an interest in his home country. It is considered his response to the threat of fascism.

The war years (selection)

This period is marked by the events of 1938, i.e. the Munich Agreement , the mobilization and the occupation and dismantling of Czechoslovakia .

  • Zhasněte světla (1938) - patriotic poetry, marked by fears about the fate of the country, direct reactions to the Munich Agreement , appeared with the subtitle Lyric Remarks.
  • Vějíř Boženy Němcové (1940) - popular, patriotic poetry. Evokes the bravery of the Czech writer Božena Němcová in order to connect her with a view of her homeland.
  • Světlem oděná (1940) - together with Kamenný most a poetry that turns against the occupation.
  • Jabloň se strunami pavučin (1943) - with illustrations by Karel Svolinský
  • Kamenný most (1944) - a cycle of 5 romances and legends projected into springtime Prague.

Post-war period (selection)

After 1945 Seifert's work touched an ever wider range of areas, which led to its unpopularity among those in power at the time and resulted in a publication ban.

  • Přilba hlíny (1945) - thanks the liberators, cheered the Prague uprising and mourned the dead on the barricades. Expresses joy at the deliverance.
  • Ruka a plamen (1948)
  • Šel malíř chudě do světa (1949) - poems based on the pictures of the painter Mikoláš Aleš .
  • Píseň o Viktorce (1950) - deals with the fate of the fictional character Viktorka and that of its author Božena Němcová .
  • Maminka (1954) - childhood memories, of the mother, home and a childhood beauty in spite of all poverty.
  • Chlapec a hvězdy (1956) with the subtitle Poems on the pictures by Josef Lada . Melancholy collection with poems on fairy tale motifs.
  • Prague a Věnec sonetů (1956)
  • Zrnka révy (1965) - poetry sings about the wine region around Mělník and its natural beauties , reveals the poet's closeness to this region.
  • Koncert na ostrově (1965) - memories of childhood, youth and the time of the occupation.
  • Odlévání zvonů (1967)
  • Halleyova kometa / Der Halleysche Komet (1967) - balance of his previous writing style - metaphors, verses, rhymes are "junk" for him, a poet must find the meaning behind the words in his opinion.
  • Kniha o Praze (1968)

1970s and 1980s (selection)

Publications in samizdat - memories, life balance, poems to friends, love affairs, Prague.

  • Morový sloup / Die plague column (1968–1970) - forbidden collection of poems, appears in samizdat and in exile. Bitter reaction to the situation after the Soviet occupation, everything appears as if infected by the plague, the poet has to look death in the eye. Is not officially published until 1981 with a delay.
  • Deštník z Piccadilly / The umbrella from Piccadilly (1979) - memories keep him alive, the present does not affect him, does not arouse expectations in him.
  • Všecky krásy světa / All the beauty of this world (1979) - memoir
  • Býti básníkem (1983) - his last volume of poetry, a farewell to the world.

Private, unsaleable issues

  • Devět rondeaux (1945) - Introductory illustration by Karel Svolinský .
  • Dokud nám neprší na rakev (1947) - Illustrations by Václav Plátek .
  • Suknice andělů (1947)

Complete works

Since 2001, a critical edition of Jaroslav Seifert's complete works has been gradually appearing in the Czech language. The publication, divided into 17 volumes, will appear under the supervision of literary critic Jiří Brabec .

German editions (selection)

  • Jaroslav Seifert: The song from the apple tree, a children's poem. Illustrations by Josef Paleček, adaptation by Kurt Baumann. Bohem Press, Zurich / Recklinghausen / Vienna / Paris 1985, ISBN 3-85581-176-8 .
    • Jaroslav Seifert: The song from the apple tree, a children's poem. Illustrations by Josef Paleček, adaptation by Hildegard Grünholz-Schwarzkopf. Herder, Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-210-24820-6 (license edition).
  • Jaroslav Seifert: Night is falling, but don't turn on the lights. Translated by Jiří Kostelecký. Hammer, Wuppertal 1990, ISBN 3-87294-420-7 .
  • Jaroslav Seifert: All the beauties in the world. Stories and memories. Translated by Eckhard Thiele . Aufbau Verlag, Berlin and Weimar 1987, ISBN 3-351-00510-5 ; Edition q, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-86124-134-X (autobiographical writings).

Web links

Commons : Jaroslav Seifert  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Minor Planet Circ. 25443