Jaroslav Seifert Biography
|Jaroslav Seifert was born in Prague on the 23rd of September 1901. He worked as a journalist until 1950 and since then he has worked as a free-lance writer dedicated to the writing of poetry. Seifert made his début in 1920 and during the 1920s he belonged, in the capacity of one of its founders, to the avant-garde group Devetsil. In his début volume of poems Mesto v slzách (City in Tears) Seifert finds expression for his proletarian childhood experiences in didactic poems of social life inspired by naivistic art and folk poems and is influenced by Soviet revolutionary art and marxism. A journey abroad brought Seifert into contact with French modernism and dadaism. Upon his return Seifert joined the "poetists" who while remaining political radicals hailed freedom and imagination and art as play, and rejected its socio-moralistic mission|
His volume Navlnách T.S.F. (On the Waves of Télegraphie sans fil) 1925 is considered to be the most typical representative of poetism. A trip to the Soviet Union in 1925 left him even more critical of the revolution and led, in 1929, to a break with the Communist Party. Seifert joined the Social Democratic Party, an act for which he was later blamed. In the volumes Jablko s klína (The Apple from your Lap) 1933, Ruce Venusiny (The Hands of Venus) 1936, and Jarosbohem (Farewell Spring) 1937, S. developed a kind of classical song-lyric of everyday life, which is regarded as the acme of Czechoslovakian poetry.
In the late 1930s with the
existence of Czechoslovakia as a state being threatened and during the
German occupation, Seifert developed patriotic themes in his poetry. The
poems Osm dní (Eight Days), written in 1937 upon the death of Masamyk,
are an address to this founder of Czechoslovakia and were published in
six editions the same year. The following volumes of poems: Zhasnete svetla
(Turn off the Lights) 1938, Svetlem odená (Robed with Light) 1940,
Vejír Bozeny Nemcové (The Fan of Bozena Nemcová)
1940, and Kamenny most (Bridge of Stone) 1944, are resistance poems meant
to strengthen national self-confidence. In Prilba hlíny (Helmet
with Clay) 1945 he treats among other subjects the Prague rebellion and
the liberation of Czechoslovakia.
|The communist take-over
in 1948 proved a disappointment to Seifert The volume Písen o Viktorce
(The Song of Viktorka) 1950 resulted in accusations of having betrayed his
class and led to Seifert's concentrating upon politically uncontroversial
poems in editions that were nonetheless great successes. Among such works
belong: Sel malír chude do sveta (A Poor Painter Set out in the World)
1949, Mozart v Praze (Mozart in Prague) 1951, Maminka (about his mother)
1954, Chlapec a hvezdy (The Boy and the Stars) 1956.
A speech given at the Czechoslovakian Writers Association's Congress in 1956, in which S. criticized the cultural policies of the previous years, and a long illness led to the discontinuation of the publication of new works by S. His Collected Works continued however to be published (vols. 1-5, 1953-57, vols. 6 & 7, 1964 and 1970 respectively). When the climate changed in 1964 S. was awarded the title of National artist. During the next few years he published three new volumes: Koncert na ostrove (Concert on the Island) 1965, Halleyova kometa (Halley's Comet) 1967, and Ódlévaní zvona (The Casting of Bells, 1983) 1967. These demonstrated a new direction in his work with the abandonment of regular verse forms.
During the Prague Spring in
1968 Seifert worked for the rehabilitation of persecuted authors. He condemned
the Soviet invasion and is one of the people who signed Charta 77. In
1969 he was elected Chairman of the Czechoslovakian Writers' Association,
but was deposed by the Husák regime which however, gradually seems
to have accepted his nonconformism. Since 1979 his works has begun to
be published again: Destník z Piccadily (An Umbrella from Piccadilly,
1983) was published first in Munich in 1979 and later, the same year,
in Prague. Morovy sloup (The Plague Monument, l980, in Swedish Pestmonumentet
by Fripress förlag 1982) was published first in Cologne in 1977,
and in Prague 1981. Seifert's memoirs Vsecky krásy sveta (All the
Beauty in the World) were published in Cologne and in Prague in 1963.