Ivan Blatný Collection at the Museum of Czech Literature
Ivan Blatný (1919–1990), an important Czech poet, lived and died in exile in the United Kingdom after 1948. Upon arrival in the UK, he applied for political asylum and became a “banned” poet in Czechoslovakia as a result of his emigration and openly talking on BBC radio about political pressure against artists in Czechoslovakia. Despite being banned, his work circulated in Czechoslovakia through both samizdat and official printings.
Strahovské nádvoří 1, 118 38 Praha 1 - Hradčany, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
- Blatný Ivan (1919-1990)
Provenance and cultural activities
Czech poet Ivan Blatný left Czechoslovakia for the United Kingdom in 1948 as an official delegation member of the Czech Journalists’ Syndicate where he, upon arrival, announced on BBC radio that he decided to emigrate from Czechoslovakia because of the political pressure against artists. He applied for a political asylum in the UK, and as a consequence, he was deprived of citizenship and property and became a banned poet in Czechoslovakia. He endured life in exile with great difficulties, became ill with paranoid schizophrenia and was permanently hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals starting in 1954.
The collection is composed of two parts. The first one comprises of Blatný’s papers that were confiscated by the State Security after his emigration in 1948. Until 1973, these papers were stored on the premises of the Pedagogical Faculty of the Masaryk University (formerly Jan Evangelista Purkyně University) in Brno. But from 1973, these papers were secretly stored in the private flat of Jiří Rambousek, where they were organised. In the 1990s the papers were given to the Museum of Czech Literature by Jan Šmarda, a microbiologist and Ivan Blatný’s cousin. The second part of the collection was created while Blatný was in British exile in the UK. Nurse Frances Meacham collected Blatný’s texts and protected them from destruction from 1977 to 1990. She later said in a radio interview in the early 1990s, “I said to him [Ivan Blatný], on the second visit, ‘I understand that you write poetry.’ He said, ‘Oh, yes.’ So I asked, ‘What do you do with it?’ He said, ‘I just write it and throw it away.’ So I said, ‘Look, don’t do that. I will bring in paper and pens each week and you save what you have for me. I will take it away and keep it.” So, Meacham sent Blatný’s poems to Josef Škvorecký, a Czech writer living in exile in Canada. Škvorecký was enthused by the poetry and thus, Blatný’s poems were published in Toronto in 1979 and 1987 by Sixty-Eight Publishers, a publishing house managed by Škvorecký and his wife Zdena Salivarová. In Czechoslovakia, Blatný’s poetry could be officially published only in 1968 in Brno by the Blok publishing house. So later, Blatný’s poems were published by samizdat.
Thanks to Jan Šmarda and Czech writer and poet Martin Reiner, both of whom were admirers of Blatný’s work, Blatný’s exile papers were moved to Prague and stored in the Museum of Czech Literature in the beginning of the 1990s. Later, in 1997, Reiner got a three-year grant from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic that enabled him to organise the collection. Materials from the Ivan Blatný collection were used, among others, by Reiner while writing his book Básník: román o Ivanu Blatném (Poet: A Novel about Ivan Blatný), which received the Czech award “Magnesia Litera” for the best book of the year in 2015.
Description of content
This collection consists of Blatný’s private documents, manuscripts of his works (mainly poems), incoming and outgoing correspondence (e.g. with Czech art theorist Jindřich Chalupecký), paper clippings, photographs and other documents. Its extent is 45 cartons (boxes).
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- photos: 100-499
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Kůželová, Michaela
PNP. 2017. Výroční zpráva 2016." Accessed October 17. http://www.pamatniknarodnihopisemnictvi.cz/content/fck/files/VyrocniZpravaPNP2016.pdf.
Schreiberová, Jarmila. 2014. "Nad literární pozůstalostí Ivana Blatného." Literární archiv 46: 516–520.
Reiner, Martin. 2014. Básník: román o Ivanu Blatném. Praha: Torst.
Tharp, Martin, Rachel Mikos, and David Vaughan. 2004. "Ivan Blatny: The Strange Story of a Czech Poet in English Exile." Last modified February 22. http://www.radio.cz/en/section/books/ivan-blatny-the-strange-story-of-a-czech-poet-in-english-exile.
Literární archiv Památníku národního písemnictví. 2014. Blatný Ivan (1919–1990) - inventář. Praha: Literární archiv PNP.
Vaughan, David. 2010. "Ivan Blatný: A Great Czech Poet Lost and Found." Last modified September 5. http://www.radio.cz/en/section/books/ivan-blatny-a-great-czech-poet-lost-and-found.
The description of this collection was created with the kind help of the director of the Museum of Czech Literature (PNP) Mgr. Zdeněk Freisleben, the head of the Literary Archive of the PNP PhDr. Tomáš Pavlíček, PhD., and the curator of the Literary Archive of the PNP PhDr. Petr Kotyk.
Rambousek, Jiří. 2010. „Tak jdete pomalu po městě dětství…“ Duha [online] 24, No. 2. Accessible at https://duha.mzk.cz/clanky/tak-jdete-pomalu-po-meste-detstvi.
Kotyk, Petr, interview by Kůželová, Michaela, November 15, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection