"King of Czech sci-fi", Josef Nesvadba, dies aged 78

Josef Nesvadba, photo: CTK

The Czech science-fiction community was hit by sad news on Monday. The greatest Czech sci-fi author, Josef Nesvadba, died unexpectedly. Although he was 78, he was still full of plans, and many had looked forward to reading his memoirs. Sadly that was not to be.

Josef Nesvadba,  photo: CTK
In an interview for Radio Prague ten years ago, Josef Nesvadba talked about writing a polical fantasy about the Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. The novel, "Peklo Benes", was finally published in 2002 and remains the last work Josef Nesvadba published.

Josef Nesvadba was born in 1926 in Prague. Right after the end of the Second World War he enrolled to study medicine and five years later he received his degree, specialising in psychiatry. For all his working life Nesvadba was a practicing psychiatrist, who very much contributed to the promotion of psychotherapy in Czechoslovakia, and a deep knowledge of the human psyche transpires in his writing.

In the 1950s he focused on short stories, mainly fantasy. His three collections published between 1958 and 1962, "Tarzanova smrt" ("The Death of Tarzan"), "Einsteinuv mozek" ("The Einstein Brain") and "Vyprava opacnym smerem" ("Expedition in The Opposite Direction") are considered milestones in Czech science-fiction writing.

Josef Nesvadba,  photo: CTK
Technology did not play the main part in his stories, instead Nesvadba preferred to explore moral, ethical, social and philosophical issues in his work. Not all of Nesvadba's works can be classified as science-fiction, for example his philosophical and political novel set in Vietnam, "Dialog s doktorem Dongem" ("Dialogue with Dr. Dong") published in 1964.

Nesvadba also dealt with political issues in a work which was finally published in 1991 as "Prvni zprava z Prahy" ("The First News from Prague"), having been banned by the communists during the "normalisation" period as it too openly described the situation in Czechoslovakia.

Several of his stories were made into films and Josef Nesvadba also wrote for radio. His stories are listed in many anthologies of world science-fiction and his collections have been translated and published for instance in the United States, Germany, France and the UK.