22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Zbynek Hejda

Zbynìk Hejda was born in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic in 1930.  After studying Philosophy and History at the Charles University in Prague, from 1953 to 1958, he worked as a historian and then until 1968 for the city council of Prague. He lost his job as a publishing editor when he protested the suppression of the Prague Spring and, as one of the signers of the ‘Charta 77’, had to work in a second-hand bookshop.  Until 1989 he earned his living as a janitor.

Zbynìk Hejda has worked in the fields of literature and journalism since the late 50s. He was on the editorial staff of the nonconformist literary magazine ‘Tváø’ and since 1985 has been co-publisher of the privately published magazine ‘Støední Evropa’ (Engl: Central Europe).  Zbynìk Hejda has published several books of poetry, of which only the first two, ‘Všechna slast’ and ‘A tady všude muziky je plno’ (Engl: And Everything Here Is Full of Music), could appear officially.  Together with ‘Blízkosti smrti’ (Engl: The Proximity of Death), which was published at the Samisdat, they comprise his first writing period, which reflects the sad atmosphere of the 50s and 60s.  The figures in a declining world spend their time between the cemetery and the bar, two central topoi in Hejda’s verse.  Drunks, barmaids, and evil bosses are the representatives of human misery.  Critics loyal to the party line denounced his poems as “spiritulist” and “degenerate” – Hejda was banned from publication for more than 20 years.

The collection ‘Lady Felthamová’, first published at the Samisdat in 1979, revolves around a mysterious love story and recounts erotic memories and offers motifs of southern landscapes that longingly incorporate the paradoxical claim that “Bohemia lies at the sea.”  In ‘Valse mélancolique’ the author laconically takes stock of life.  From an older person’s perspective, abstract thoughts on transitoriness are deemed unacceptable. Instead, memories of the places where one spent one’s childhood, of companions and the everyday marginalia that is only all too clearly taken note of, become the only comprehensible final certainties.  These books, which have been available in a German translation since 2003, are interspersed with very visual accounts of dreams, which as unconscious subtext ironically break with the fears and obsessions of the lyrical self.

In 1996 Hejda received the renowned Jaroslav Seifert Prize.  Although awarded for ‘Valse mélancolique’, this award also applies to the entire work, which primarily focuses on two intersecting themes: death and eros.

The poet and translator (of, to name a few, Trakl, Benn, Dickinson) lives in Prague and the Bohemian village of Horní Ves.

The author died on November 16, 2013. 

© international literature festival berlin