Jan Neruda

This Sunday we announce the winners of last month's listeners' competition and also a new question for June. We quote from e-mails by: Hrishabh Sandilya, David Wrigth, Angelia Beranek, Peter Valek, Miki Ramo-Kalkus, Gina Cenkl, Phil McVey, Mary Lou Krenek, Charles Konecny and Roy Kitson.

Welcome to Mailbox. Another month has passed which means we need to announce the winners of our monthly competition as well as the correct answer to our question. This is the question we asked in May:

"A well known South American poet, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote under a pen-name which he adopted from a 19th-century Czech poet and journalist. What was the name of the Czech author?"

As usual we have received a lot of answers but this time also quite a few wrong ones. The man in question was not Jaroslav Seifert, nor Milan Kundera, nor Karel Jaromir Erben. A few people also wrote Pablo Neruda - who is, of course, the Chilean Nobel laureate, but we asked you to tell us the name of the Czech author whose surname Pablo Neruda took as his pen-name. So the correct answer is Jan Neruda.

Hrishabh Sandilya who follows us in Prague wrote:

"Pablo Neruda, the Chilean writer whose real name Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, adopted his pseudonym from the Czech writer Jan Neruda, who was one of the most prominent Czech realist writers. Nerudova Street in Mala Strana is named after him."

David Wright listens to Radio Prague in South Wales:

"It is from Jan Neruda that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda takes his name. Jan Neruda, born in Prague in 1834, was a poet, political columnist and master of the art of the feuilleton of which he published over 2000 during his life. His social commentary and observations of 19th century Prague are often favourably compared to the writings of Charles Dickens."

Angelia Beranek from Australia adds:

"Jan Neruda's most popular prose work was Povidky Malostranske (Tales of the Little Quarter), a collection of short stories which were translated into English in 1957. These stories take the reader into an imaginative stroll of the streets, yards, shops, churches, houses and restaurants of the Mala Strana during the 1800's. Another great Czech!"

House of Jan Neruda in Mala Strana
Peter Valek listens to us in the United Kingdom:

"As a Prague born British National, who left Prague at 9 months of age, unable to speak Czech, but who is besotted with my home town, I would suggest that the answer to your May question is Jan Neruda, after whom the steeply descending street from Hradcany to Malostranske namesti is named, with a house in which he was born."

Miki Ramo-Kalkus from Spain had this to say:

"The Czech author is Jan Neruda, his name was used by the Chilean author Pablo Neruda. Here in Spain most people don't know about the Czech author but they all have read Pablo Neruda. When I tell them that his name was taken from a well know Czech writer they are surprised."

Our regular listener Gina Cenkl lives in Boston, USA:

"I have to admit I had no idea that Pablo took Jan's name. No one mentioned that when I went to school in Prague in the 50's and 60'. Actually Pablo Neruda's name was not in the curriculum at all..."

Phil McVey from Cornwall provides an interesting angle on how Pablo Neruda came to choose his pen-name:

"The Nobel Prize winner, Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, took his pen-name (Pablo Neruda) from Jan Neruda. Interesting to note is how many literary articles state that he chose the name in homage to Neruda, the truth is a lot more prosaic. Even the Nobel Prize official website gets it wrong! Many people asked him why, and he never revealed this until his memoirs. The reason he chose Neruda? His father didn't like the idea of him being a poet, so he chose the name at random from a magazine for his first collection of poems! Only later did he realise how great a writer he had selected and he did pay homage to Neruda's grave when he visited Czechoslovakia."

Our regular listener Mary Lou Krenek is writing from Texas:

"I would speculate that Pablo Neruda was attracted to and found a literary kinship to Jan Neruda's romantic patriotic writings although he had leftist leanings and admired Stalin. Pablo Neruda left a legacy as one of the most influential writers in South America, recording its political struggles to the left and much of its socio-historical development in the 20th century. I am beginning to see how respected Czech culture is in the world. The depth of the influence in Latin America was not that known to me before your introductions. This is quite an eye-opener as we say in America."

Charles Konecny listens to us in Ohio:

"I am not caught up in the works of poets, since it is difficult to know what most poems mean unless you can figure it out by reading the title. This is in comparison to writers who must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, plus hold your interest for 200 to 300 pages. However I know poets must have their place in society and if they are held by their peers in great esteem, then so be it. I suppose I am also down on Pablo Neruda, (who took Jan Neruda's name), because he tried to put a human face on communism through his poems instead of that of an iron fist."

Roy Kitson listens to Radio Prague in Northern Ireland:

"The answer to this month's quiz is Jan Neruda, who I know best as the author of the marvellous "Povidky malostranske" relating marvellous and humorous (as well as serious) tales of the "Little Side" in Prague in the nineteenth century - a book which certainly helped me fall in love with the country and its language."

And this month's lucky four are Phil McVey from the UK, Zenon Teles from India, Charles Konecny from the United States, and the main prize goes to Roy Kitson from Northern Ireland. Congratulations!

Now we have just enough time to announce a new question for June.

"Two dozen countries of the world use dollars as their national currencies, with the United States dollar being the world's most widely circulated currency. But not all of those who use dollars may be aware that there is a connection between the dollar and the Czech Republic. What is the connection?"

Please send us you suggestions by the end of June to Radio Prague, 12099, Prague or [email protected]. We'll be looking forward to your answers.