Petr Král was born in 1941 in a suburb of Prague. He began his studies with film, and joined the circle of post-surrealist artists around Vratislav Effenberger. After the invasion of Russian troops in 1968 he fled to Paris. Like Beckett, Ionesco, Kundera, and many other intellectuals, who in the second half of the Twentieth Century fled from their homelands to France, Král took deliberate efforts to adopt the foreign language, renewing his faculties of expression as a writer. Since then he has written works in French and Czech. Along with volumes of poetry and prose, he has published essays, theoretical studies and anthologies.
For some time Král operated within the realm of surrealism. In Paris he worked together with prominent representatives of this movement: Alain Joubert, Francois-René Simon, and Georges-Henri Morin, amongst others. Surrealistic principles are important elements in Král’s poetry from this period in his career. »& Cie« (1979; Engl: & Co.) and »Routes du Paradis« (1981; Engl: Routes of Paradise) likewise integrate elements from the culture of the Twenties and the Beat Generation, two eras that continue to fascinate the poet. »Pour une Europe bleue« (1985; Engl: For a Blue Europe) was awarded the Prix Claude Sernet. With the anthology »Le Surréalisme en Tchécoslovaquie« (Engl: Surrealism in Czechoslovakia), edited by Král in 1983, he finally moved away from this formative influence.
Later he increasingly turned to incidental introspection and dedicated himself, in his poetry, to the everyday forms of the metaphysical. »In surrealism there was a definitive model through which to express the mysterious. But now, for me, that which is unforeseeable about an event is what is most essential when exposing the mysterious.« The collection of poems »Témoin des crépuscules« (1985; Engl: Twilight’s Witness) and the poetry volume »Sentiment d’antichambre dans un café d’Aix« (1991; Engl: The Feeling of an Entrance-Hall in a Café in Aix) most clearly illustrate the transition in Král’s work: the volumes are a celebration of the coincidental and its transfigurations, while at the same time offering a nostalgic dimension.
Král defines himself as a poet of detours. In an »introverted drift« he finds the best possibility of actually becoming aware of his surroundings. For him, his poetry deals less with reaching formal perfection than with communicating the creative process and forging a dialogue with the reader. His most recent work to have appeared in Czech is »Masiv a trhliny« (2004; Engl: Massif and Cracks) – in French it is »Pour l’ange« (2007; Engl: For the Angel). Král lives in Paris.
© international literature festival berlin