23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Petr Borkovec

Petr Borkovec was born in Louòovice, central Bohemia, in 1970. Since 1992 the poet and arts editor has worked for the arts magazine »Souvislosti« (t: Connections) and since 2000 with the literature journal »Literární noviny«. As a translator, his interests have been predominantly in Russian poetry (for example, Vladimir Nabokov, Vladislav Chodasevic, Jevgenij Rejn, and Jurij Odarcenko) but together with philologists he has also translated Ancient drama and Korean poetry. Critics testify that he masters the traditional techniques of poetry writing to a standard no other Czech writer of his generation can equal, and that he was able very early on to develop his own distinctive language. Since 1990 Borkovec has published six volumes of poems, among which are »Prostírání do tichého« and »Mezi oknem, stolem a postelí«. For his collection entitled »Ochoz« he was awarded the » Jiøí Orten Poetry Prize« in 1995. A selection from the original volumes have been collected in four Czech-German books, e.g. »Feldarbeit« (2001; »Polní práce«, 1998), and »Nadelbuch« (2004; »Needle-Book«, 2003). Borkovec’s poems document the period of upheaval in Czecholovakia, in Prague and its surrounding towns. Quietly and concisely with precise observation and apparently by simple means, he sharpens the reader’s eye for moments and situations in everyday life: a provincial railway station in some provincial area, or a house in some desolate villa suburb reveal their strangeness. The writer says of this town in which he still lives with his wife and three children: »Sunday evening, from the car, when we approach the southern town, this terrible estate where the number of filling stations is increasing – this is my town. And where I now live, in Èernošice, I experience that continually: from there you can see the town, and it looks like Jerusalem when the lights begin to flicker on different levels. That is my Prague.« The view from afar determines the quietness and precise nature of the description, which distinguishes his language. »His elaborately rhyming poems – often sonnets – resemble still lives, precarious momentary shots in which inside and outside come into contact«, wrote Ilma Rakusa about the poet. »In this way the world of tangible objects develops a strange, sometimes metaphysical and moribund magic. Melamine and concrete, balconies, curtains and fences come together there, the aspens seem ›as if of alpaca‹, the polystyrene crib desolate, the typewriter – ›an altar for ashes‹.« »Vakats« is what Borkovec calls a cycle of poems, as if he wanted to declare what was written as invalid; but the words assert themselves through their concentrated terseness. A collection of short prose pieces and poems that Borkovec wrote as a guest of the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin in 2004/05, was published in Germany under the title “Amselfassade” (2006; t: Blackbird Facade).

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