Czech Republic plans cultural commemoration for Karel Hynek Mácha bicentenary

Karel Hynek Mácha

Preparations are being completed across the Czech Republic for what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest cultural events of the year. Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of perhaps the country’s greatest poet, Karel Hynek Mácha. We take a look at the dozens of international, national and regional events being planned.

Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.
Meltingly called the turtle-dove,
Where rich and sweet pinewoods lay.
Whispered of love the mosses frail,
The flowering tree as sweetly lied….

It is estimated that at least half of the Czech population can recite at least a few of those opening lines of Karel Hynek Mácha’s epic romantic poem, Máj or May. The work was completed shortly before Mácha’s death at the age of 25 in 1836. Ridiculed at the time, it was only in the following decades that the poet buried in a pauper’s grave began to be appreciated.

Appreciation will certainly not be in short supply at the series of international conferences, exhibitions, readings and publications planned to mark the bicentenary of Mácha’s birth.

The biggest grouping of Czech writers, Obec Spisovatelů, is organising the commemoration. It’s head, Vladimír Křivánek, explains Mácha’s enduring importance.

“I believe that Mácha was basically the founder of modern Czech poetry. He was one of the first, fundamentally the first together with Karel Jaromír Erben and his poem “the bouquet”. These two authors were behind the birth of modern Czech poetry.”

Mácha’s works have been translated into most major world languages, but there are a few gaps that should be filled in next year. A translation of Máj will be unveiled in Vietnamese and in the Sorbian language spoken in a small part of Germany. Some of his prose works will also be published for the first time in Chinese.

Mr Křivánek outlines the aims of the organisers.

The commemorations start in January and culminate on Mácha’s birthday on November 16 with almost 100 events planned throughout the year.