Juliana Jirousová Letters Collection at Libri Prohibiti
This collection contains letters which the Libri Prohibiti Library obtained from the estate of the poet and manager of the Czechoslovak underground band Plastic People of the Universe, Ivan Martin Jirous. These letters were written by his wife, the painter Juliana Jirousová, during his many stays in prison. However, we can also find several unknown letters which were written before their wedding. This collection contains over 120 letters.
Senovážné nám. 2, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
Ivan Martin Jirous Correspondence Juliana Jirousová
Provenance and cultural activities
The Juliana Jirousová Letters Collection is comprised of letters from the years 1974–1982. The painter Juliana Jirousová sent them to her partner and later husband, the poet and manager of the Czechoslovak underground band Plastic People of the Universe, Ivan Martin Jirous. One exception is a letter addressed to Jirousʼs lawyer. Most of the letters which Jirousová sent were to prison, where her husband was held because of political reasons. It is important to note that this collection is not complete. Some letters were lost, while some of them are the property of other institutions or people. Almost all of the prison letters which were found in October 2015 were published as mutual correspondence: Ahoj můj miláčku (Hi, my darling, Torst, 2015). The letters used in this publication were from Libri Prohibiti, family members and the Torst publishing house and others. Despite the publication of hundreds of letters, new correspondence has been found in Jirousʼs estate. The collection from Libri Prohibiti is an illustration of this mutual correspondence, though it is not a comprehensive collection.
Juliana Jirousová rewrote all the letters, therefore hand-written drafts are part of this collection. One requirement from the prison censor was that the text be legible, which was one reason for rewriting the letters. Another reason for the rewrites came from the writer’s efforts to accommodate her husband, who insisted on the letters being of high stylistic quality. Jirous was strict with his wife and asked her to write without any grammatical or stylistic errors. Other letters were rewritten on a typewriter. Jirous planned to publish them, but this never happened during his lifetime.
These were mainly prison letters and so they were subject to censorship and so-called self-censorship, which is why it was not so necessary to hide them from the secret police. The recipients of these letters would hide them for their own personal solace and support during difficult periods (though the situation in prison was slightly different. The prisoner could only keep one letter, the rest of them were kept by the prison officers). Some of those letters which were circulated amongst friends were published in samizdat volumes (for example Koruna, 1989). Given the position of Jirous in underground culture and this connection with his writings, and thanks to Julianaʼs systematic nature and creation of a “chronicle” of the seventies and eighties, it is possible use these letters for historical, literary, and cultural research into the period.
The Libri Prohibiti – the library of “prohibited books” – where the Juliana Jirousová Letters Collection is stored, was opened in 1990. The foundation of the Libri Prohibiti was initiated by Jiří Gruntorád, a pre-1989 publisher and collector of samizdat literature and signatory of Charter 77, who had been imprisoned twice because of his samizdat activities. Gruntorád wanted to collect exile and samizdat literature in one place and make it accessible to the public in order to help interpret recent Czechoslovak history. According to him, the library should serve as a “message about past times,” and show how the communist regime in Czechoslovakia functioned. Today, the library’s entire collection consists of about 40,500 library items and more than 3,400 periodicals from the fields of literature, literary science, history, political science, philosophy, theology, sociology, culture and politics, human rights, and international relations.
The Libri Prohibiti library does not only make books and magazines accessible to the public, but it also organises various activities such as exhibitions (focusing on exile and samizdat visual artists, photographers and other topics) and literary evenings (dedicated mostly to samizdat and exile authors). The library also hosts an annual award ceremony by the PANT Civic Society, which presents the Jaromír Šavrda Prize for Testimonies on Totalitarianism. The Libri Prohibiti has also produced many publications, films (mainly documentaries) and exhibitions; it cooperates with radio stations, theatres, and several websites.
The Libri Prohibiti library was also interested in the letters to this important leader of the so-called second culture. After the death of Ivan Martin Jirous in 2011, the letters remained unorganized. They were located at his permanent address – a farm in Prostřední Vydří. Františka Jirousová, daughter of I. M. Jirous and Juliana Jirousová, discovered the letters, and preserved them together with other documents and books with the help of Jana Bauerová, an archivist from the Libri Prohibiti library. Františka Jirousová gave these materials to Libri Prohibiti in the summer of 2013. Some of the letters were acquired by Libri Prohibiti directly from Juliana Jirousová (the exact date is unknown). Each item was later catalogued by Jana Bauerová.
Description of content
This collection contains more than 120 letters from the painter Juliana Jirousová, who comes from an artistic Catholic family. Jirousová mainly sent these letters to her husband, the writer and publicist, Ivan Martin Jirous, during the many different times when he was in prison. The collection is divided into three parts. In the first part, we can find hand-written drafts of letters to I. M. Jirous from the years 1976–1982 (one of them was addressed to his lawyer) and hand-written correspondence from these years. The second part includes eighty-five letters from 1981–1982 which were rewritten on a typewriter. Several copies of letters from 1981 form the third part. Although it was not possible to freely describe events outside the prison walls, these letters contain information about Julianaʼs family, the Czech underground, those involved in the so-called second culture and leading Czech dissidents. The writer often used secret codes which were understandable to the recipients of these letters. Therefore, the censors could not make use of this written information to help the secret police. These letters provide information about the details and circumstances of I. M. Jirous’s arrests and trials. Therefore, the collection is a valuable document which describes the Czechoslovak underground culture in the 1970s and 1980s.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Kellerová Kordíková, Marta
- Kůželová, Michaela
Jirousová, Juliana, and Ivan Martin Jirous. 2015. Ahoj můj miláčku: vzájemná korespondence z let 1977–1989. Praha: Torst.
Le Fay, Monika, ed. 2011. Aby radost nezmizela: pocta Magorovi. Praha: Monika Vadasová-Elšíková.
Reynek Bohuslav, Jiří Šerých, and Jaroslav Med, eds. 2012. Korespondence. Praha: Karolinum.
Jirousová, Juliana. 2018. "O autorce." Accessed October 25. http://www.juliana-jirousova.cz/o-autorce/.
Revolver Revue. 2018. "Juliana Jirousová." Accessed October 26. http://www.revolverrevue.cz/juliana-jirousova.
Jirousová, Františka, Bauerová, Jana, interview by Kellerová Kordíková, Marta, October 14, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection