Czech underground legend Ivan Martin Jirous dies aged 67
One of the legends of the Czech underground, poet Ivan Martin Jirous, died in Prague on Thursday at the age of 67. Ivan Jirous, or Magor – literally “the crazy one” as he was affectionately called by his friends – was perhaps best-known as the artistic manager and spiritual leader of the underground band The Plastic People of the Universe, but this eternal rebel was also a sensitive, contemplative poet and master of the Czech language.
“In his poetry Jirous occupies himself with the soul, with the question whether to sell your soul or not. In a unique way his poetry mixes spontaneity, worldliness and earthiness with the most supreme issues of faith, eternity and God.”
For his lifelong literary work Ivan Martin Jirous was awarded the Jaroslav Seifert Prize in Prague in 2006. But official artistic recognition came only late in his life. Jirous did not choose an easy path to tread. Always going against the grain of the authorities, his rebellious nature earned him five prison sentences under communism, including that for his involvement with the band the Plastic People of the Universe. Although educated in art history at Charles University Jirous was only allowed to work as a manual labourer between his jail sentences. A man of strong principles he always maintained he did all on his own behalf.
A hot-headed rebel, Ivan Martin Jirous never minced his words and often liked to pick a fight in pubs, but literary critics agree his poetry expressed extraordinary tenderness.