Poet and translator Jaroslav Seifert is one of the most important Czech writers. His comprehensive poetic work went through a complicated internal evolution, as did the author’s approach to communism. Seifert’s first poems were published in newspapers and magazines in 1919, his first collection of poems, “Město v slzách”, was published two years later. During the 1920s Seifert became an important representative of the Czechoslovak artistic avant-garde. He became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and later started contributing to the party’s newspaper, Rudé právo. However, he was expelled from the party in 1929 because of his protest against its bolshevization. He worked as a journalist for social-democratic newspapers in the 1930s. In the 1950s he fully committed himself to writing poetry, which was criticized by communist dogmatists. His “de-Stalinization” speech, given on the Congress of Czechoslovak Writers in 1956 criticizing the development of cultural politics after 1948, mostly in relation to non-conforming writers and arrested authors, became well-known. In the 1960s, Seifert, holder of the “National Artist” title since 1966, took part in the reform of communist system and efforts to establish an autonomous writers’ organisation in 1968 and 1969. He therefore became a chairman of the newly established Czech Writers’ Association in 1969. However, the Association was dissolved a year later because it refused to stand with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. In the 1970s, Seifert’s work was published only sporadically in re-editions. Although he was among the firsts to sign the Charter 77, the communist regime could not ignore such a well-known writer and allowed his poems to be published from the beginning of the 1980s by official publishers. Seifert’s work was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984. While the world media informed its citizens of Jaroslav Seifert being awarded the Nobel Prize, Czechoslovak media almost did not mention it. The acknowledgement, however, led to increased demand of Seifert’s work in exile publishing houses. To honour Jaroslav Seifert, the Charter 77 Foundation established the “Jaroslav Seifert Prize” in Stockholm in 1986 – the first prize winner was Slovak writer Dominik Tatarka.
Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
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- Praha, Prague, Czech Republic
Date of death
- Czech Exile Collection at Libri Prohibiti
- Czech Samizdat Collection at Libri Prohibiti
- Exile Collection of Czechoslovak Documentation Centre
- Jaroslav Seifert Collection at the Museum of Czech Literature
- Jindřich Chalupecký Collection at the Museum of Czech Literature
- Samizdat Collection of Czechoslovak Documentation Centre
- Václav Havel Library
Author(s) of this page
- Kůželová, Michaela
Cinger, František, and Jaroslav Seifert. 2011. Jaroslav Seifert: laskavě neústupný pěvec: po stopách básníka očima jeho blízkých. Praha: BVD.
ÚČL AV ČR. 2007. "Slovník české literatury po roce 1945: Jaroslav Seifert." Last modified January 17. http://www.slovnikceskeliteratury.cz/showContent.jsp?docId=1114.
Janouch, František. 1995. Šel básník chudě do světa: Nobelova cena pro Jaroslava Seiferta. Praha: Český spisovatel.