Ivan Blatný

Poet, son of the writer Lev Blatný (1894-1930). Born in Brno, he spent the first part of his life here – before escaping into exile in 1948. He lived in a house...

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František Halas

Poet, translator and publicist, Brno born, spent his childhood and youth here. He learned the bookseller’s trade from A. Píša and for a brief period (1919–1921)...

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Oldřich Mikulášek

Poet and publicist. Lived in Brno from 1937 until his death, latterly at Mášova street. He is linked to several cultural institutions (the Brno studios of Czechoslovak...

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Jaroslav Seifert

Poet, publicist, memoirist. The first – and so far the only Czech to receive the Nobel prize for Literature. In addition to the lasting popularity he won through...

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Jan Skácel

Poet, writer, editor and translator. Spent most of his life in Brno and is closely linked to a number of Brno cultural institutions (the magazine Host do domu...

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Vít Slíva

Poet and schoolteacher. His connection to Brno dates back to his university days. Apart from one interlude, he has been living to this day at Poděbradova street....

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Places (in alphabetical order)

Jiří Wolker

1900  –  1924

Poet, dramatist, author of poetic prose. He made regular trips to Brno to meet with his friends from the Literary Group (Čestmír Jeřábek, Lev Blatný etc.), who used to meet at the Café Bellevue on the corner of Joštova street and the Moravské náměstí square of today. Not only his (amicable) parting of the ways with these artists, but also his departure from the world of the wealthy bourgeoisie is captured in one of Wolker’s most well known poems “Tvář za sklem” (‘The face behind the glass’), set in this café and later included in the collection Těžká hodina (Onerous Hour) (1922).

The author and the places of his/her poems

Joštova 2 (Joštova Street 2)

The poem and the place

The face behind the glass

The café Bellevue is a lush
realm built of music, warmth and plush,
bordered by windows tall, clear, neat,
to keep away the frozen street.

Today as ever lordly sat at tables,
dignified gentlemen and honourable dames
smile-punctured faces, neckties pierced by gems
and in the warmth, music, plush velveret
upon their eyes the newspapers they set,

so they might through those paper glasses see,
the world as jolly, being themselves full of jollity
in the café Bellevue.

While they sat here so warm and so esteemed
with hands smooth pressed,
it came to pass, – not quite by chance it seemed, –
that to the plate glass border wafer thin
was pressed the face of some street-standing man,
part youth part man in equal half degree,
who with a stare sharp cold as a steel knife
did slice the window, stabbing at the splendour,
at goblets, waltz, mirrors for loved girls’ looks,
at bellies, warmth, tailcoats and pocket books,
and in them left impaled and not withdrawn,
that blade even after both eyes had gone.

That time the tables turned
to marble tombstone isles,
the fortunate interred
with their cadaverous smiles,
sommeliers mourning-clad
bearing wreaths smoky grey,
before the glass the street life, snow, strife had,
beyond the glass the headstones stared away
in the café Bellevue.

                                                   translated by Václav Pinkava


Wolker, Jiří: Těžká hodina (Onerous Hour) [1922], in: Dílo Jiřího Wolkera (The works of Jiří Wolker), ed. A. M. Píša, Vyškov: F. Obzina, 1928, pp. 91–92.


Jiří Trávníček  -   travnicek@ucl.cas.cz
Michal Fránek  -   franek@ucl.cas.cz

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