Poetry from the Twilight Zone: writing from North Bohemia


The impossibly named Mnohacek Zgublacenko writes sung poems. He is one of the writers featured in a brand new anthology of Czech literature. This is a fantastic book of over sixty new writers, and the good news is that it is going to be available in English translation later in the year. It will be available on the Czech Ministry of Culture website. Mnohacek Zgublacenko is one of the poets living in the Twilight Zone of North Bohemia.

Young Usti nad Labem resident, Jaroslav Balvin, produces publications of poets in the area.

"My girlfriend Zuzana and I established an agency and publishing house. It's called Grafobal Press. It presents the work of people who are not really educated. They have problems with mental health. We think that these people have a lot to say to us, because with these people we experience very funny stories and we think their work is quite good."

Could you say something about Mnohacek Zgublacenko?

"He is quite famous and his poems are in the anthologies of all national selections of poems."

I understand he's one of the authors in the Anthology of New Czech Writing.

"He's among the sixty most read authors."

Here is one of his poems:


Strihal jsem babicce nehty

nebyl to vsak ukol lehky

patery nuzky jsem ztupil

ted uz chapu

proc se muj dedecek upil.

(I cut my grandma's nails

not an easy task

I got through five pairs of scissors

now I understand why granddad took to drink.)

And now a little of Mnohacek's very own language, which is called Kuffne language:

Kuffnersky jazykolam (Kuffne Tongue-Twister)

Onceriwako milazeta onkeso, mamutyke

olewo. Samarangatyce onkero.

Cusekita milancake kriwancake.

One very influential philosophy on writers in this region is "Pataphysics". Jaroslav Balvin explains:

"It started here in Teplice in the 70s. Eduard Vacek was the establishing person in Czech. He was influenced by Alfred Jarry from France and Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. So it's absurd theatre, absurd humour. They combined it with punk. There's the music group "Uz jsme doma" which has also played in the USA. They are quite famous. And Pataphysics means that rationality and normality are subverted by figures of nonsense and craziness. An author like Mnohacek Zgublacenko is the sort of person to which we can give the label 'Pataphysics'."

How lively is the literary scene in Usti nad Labem and Teplice? Is there a lot going on in the two towns?

"Yes, I think so. There are three towns, Decin, Usti nad Labem and Teplice and the authors from these towns know each other. They meet at readings, they publish together in some literary magazines or newspapers, and in some almanachs."

It's very near the German border. Is there much cross-cultural activity? Radek Fridrich and other writers, like Patrik Linhart, are influenced by the German language and history. They loudly say, 'We are Sudeten authors.' And Radek Fridrich cooperates with some German authors. He invites them to readings in Usti, and he often goes to read in Germany."

On the next programme we meet the Teplice poet Patrik Linhart.

Books for this programme supplied by Shakespeare and Sons.