Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Nov 22, 2010 12:00 AM - 12:00 AM


Poetry and music night on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the greatest Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha.


November 22, 2010 , 7pm, Free
Czech Center New York

Karel Hynek Macha
Karel Hynek Macha was born on November 16, 1810 in an old part of Prague where his father was the foreman at one of the citys mills. At school he learned Latin and German, the two languages approved by the Hapsburg authorities, and later studied law at Prague University. His great model was Byron, with whom he shared a romantic idealism, wandering the Bohemian countryside to visit castle ruins, always making sketches and notes describing the natural beauty surrounding him. He also walked the length of Moravia and Slovakia as well as making a journey to Venice on foot.

Much influenced by the Czech intellectuals who were trying to revive the language at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Macha wrote May and many of his poems in Czech (though his early writing was in German, the compulsory language of his education). In this way he identified himself with the Byronic hero who gives his life to a case.

Macha died of pneumonia on November 5, 1836 just shy of his 26th birthday. He was to have been married in Prague to the mother of his son three days later. Buried in a paupers grave in Litomerice, his remains were exhumed in March 1939, as Nazi German was occupying the country, and given a formal state burial at Pragues Slavin Cemetery on Vysehrad among the great Czech dead. In addition to May, Macha in his short life wrote a number of poems, short prose sketches, and a journal where he explicitly describes his sexual encounters with his wife to-be, Lori.

MAY by Karel Hynek Macha, translated from the Czech by Marcela Sulak, illustrations by Jindrich Styrsky

Compared to Byron, Keats, Shelley, and Poe, called Lautreamonts "elder brother" by the Czech Surrealists, Karel Hynek Macha (1810-1836) was the greatest Czech Romantic poet, and arguably the most influential of any poet in the language. May, his epic masterpiece, was published in April 1836, just seven months before his death. Considered the "pearl" of Czech poetry, it is a tale of seduction, revenge, and patricide. A paean as well to his homeland, virtually every Czech student learns to recite the first stanzas of the poem from memory and new editions are still regularly published. The reason for the poems popularity and longevity is the beauty of its music and its innovative use of language. Scorned at first by the national revivalists of the 19th century for being "un-Czech," he was held up as a "national" poet by later generations, a fate from which the interwar Czech avant-garde, who considered him a precursor, tried to rescue him.

Unlike the other seminal 19th-century European poets, Machas work has been largely ignored in English translation. The present volume, the only available in English, provides the original Czech text in parallel.




Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


Nov 22, 2010 12:00 AM - 12:00 AM


České centrum

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