To celebrate the 120 anniversary of Jaroslav Seifert (1901 – 1986), the Slaviyanski dialozi journal pays tribute to one of the most remarkable Czech poets of the twentieth century. In our attempt to make the most thorough outline of his creative profile, we offer you research analyses of his work as well as different genres of fiction and different stages of his fruitful creative path. The variety of interpretive approaches proposed by scholars from the Czech Republic, the United States, and Bulgaria makes it possible to shed light on various aspects of Seifert’s poetry and, at the same time, to highlight events and personalities relevant to Czech poetry, which outline the context of literary development through a sizeable portion of the 20c.: from the 1920s with their characteristic modernist search for a new artistic language and rebellious attitudes against social disharmony, through the Stalin era with its coups and perversities, to the fateful 1968 and the revanchism of the so-called “normalization” of the totalitarian regime. There is no other Czech poet who could serve as an iconic symbol of the most dynamic, the most dramatic and, at the same time, the most creative decades of the twentieth century.
Awarding Seifert with the 1984 Nobel Prize to Seifert is an event, perceived by the Czech literary community as controversial, but it is no coincidence that those who are most enthusiastic about it are in conflict with the authorities back then: immigrants and dissidents. Their voice here is heard through the works of Milan Kundera, Pavel Kohout and Václav Havel.
The worldwide recognition of Seifert and, at the same time, Czechoslovakia’s political affiliation with the Eastern bloc raised the issue of how was his translation reception handled in the Slavic world. The section “Translation Perspectives” offers one approach to this problem, where poems that are representative of the different stages of Seifert’s creative path are translated into Bulgarian, Polish, Serbian, and Russian. At the same time, the selection of poetic texts allows the outlining of the changing tone of his poetic world: from bold young age to sad insights of old age; from adventurous experiments with verse to realizing that Language is both confession and destiny.
The works of Seifert which appear for the first time in Bulgarian translations also fit into this perspective. It is no coincidence that memoir essays are dominant among them—they bring us closer to his inner world, captivate us with the purity and beautiful sadness of his experiences, and, above all, resurrect those literary friendships that help us reconstruct both Seifert’s personality and the spiritual content of a previous century.