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)

František Halas

1901  –  1949

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) worked as an assistant boookseller. He lived on what today is Hálkova street in Husovice, staying there with his grandmother (the old woman of the eponymous poem); Jaroslav Seifert wrote in his memoirs of their impoverished household, saying how even in Prague’s Žižkov district he had not come across such destitution. After spending some time in Paris, František Halas did not return to Brno, for with the help of Jiří Mahen he got a post in Prague. He was one of the greatest Czech poets of the 20th century, an inspiration to several generations to follow. He was also active as a cultural publicist, as editor in a publishing house; joining the resistance during World War II, and during the period 1945-48 he actively entered politics, chairing the Syndikát českých spisovatelů (Syndicate of Czech writers). In the last years of his life he felt a special bond with Kunštát in the Vysočina highlands, the land of his ancestors, where he is buried. He revisited Brno with e.g. the poem “Dobrý den Brno” (‘Good day Brno’) in his last collection A co? (So what?’ (1957).

The author and the places of his/her poems

Brno Brno

The poem and the place

Good day Brno

Good day
and how are you

She was Don’t you think Rustily smouldering
Empty-eyed Sneaky
and someone sang on her behalf

Break the evergreen bough
cover the red blood
so the crows don’t crow

She hung out the innards of houses
and ostentatiously

Time now obscuring the scrawled-on fence
That is how it must be
How much more beautiful you’ve grown my belated love
with the grudging fawning of the years
Time obscuring that scrawled-on fence
and the sign on it
Halas is an ass

Were you but not to laugh

Is there somewhere a pawlatsche of the first pubic touches
days of neckties
the love work of fissile darkness
the ghastly disrobing
and the moon above it all

Is there somewhere a ground floor window
with a recrimination drooped
geranium and a fuchsia

At the edge of a memory
the slope heading to become a landslide
Reach out to me at least with a finger

My suckling verses
those verses from times back then

when the air was cooing
and the eyes shadowed
when in that acrid stomping ground
she raised her nose right up to pride

Be off with you away from me
love has passed me by

A wound perspired with anxiety
she ran naked

What was behind that
and a baiting bone

You know what the worm knows and the grass knows
and the seeding out through roots
night crumbled up into moths
You in the soil of the Central
did not make do with little
I am going back so do help me
articulate the seeming
into royal turns of phrase

I understand less and less

Move yourself along verse
for I wanted to write a loftier whatever
when something tapped
perhaps the heart inside an egg
and I got up leaving you be

Good day Brno
Get up
and this is just to keep the talking going

                                                               translated by Václav Pinkava


Halas, František: A co? (So what?) [1957], in: A co básník. Dílo Františka Halase, sv. 3 (So what a poet. The works of František Halas, vol. 3), ed. Ludvík Kundera, Praha: Československý spisovatel 1983, pp. 96–97.


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

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