Jaroslav Seifert: Echoes of the Czech Spirit

Suman Kumar

Jaroslav Seifert (23 September 1901 – 10 January 1986) was a Czech writer, poet, and journalist. He became the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984.

Life and Career

He was born on 23 September 1901, in Prague, Austria-Hungary. He published his first book of poetry in 1920, Metropol v slzach (“Town in Tears”). he published his first collection of poems in 1921. In 1921, he formed a core part of the Communist Party in newly formed Czechoslovakia as a member of the extreme left wing of the Social Democratic Party. He worked at the communist publishing house and bookstore and became an editor of communist newspapers and magazines. In several Czechoslovakian magazines, he served as a leading representative of the artistic avant-garde in the 1920s.

He was expelled from the Communist Party in March 1929 for signing a manifesto protesting Bolshevik tendencies in the new leadership. From 1930 he worked in the social democratic press. He was editor of the trade-union newspaper Prace during the German occupation. Between 1945 and 1948, he edited the literary magazine Kytice. After leaving journalism in 1949, he dedicated himself exclusively to literature.

His poetry won state prizes in 1936, 1955, and 1968. His work was recognized as a national artist in 1967. In 1968, he was elected Chairman of the Czech Writers’ Union. He was again elected to the Czech Writers’ Union from 1969 to 1970. In January 1977, he was one of the first to sign the Charter 77 petition, protesting Gustav Husak’s rule. His memoirs were published in 1981. He also contributed to several journals and wrote children’s books. Jaroslav Seifert died on 10 January 1986, in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Award and Legacy

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984. He was the first Czech to win the award.