Jáchym Topol

Jáchym Topol (b. 1962), like most Czech authors of his generation, wrote poetry for years before turning to prose. His first two collections of poems were both published in samizdat (i.e., unofficially and illegally), in 1985 and 1988. The poems here come from V úterý bude válka (Tuesday Will Be War, 1992), his first 'aboveground' appearance in print and his last poetry outing prior to his prose debut, Výlet k nádražní hale (A Trip to the Train Station, 1993). Topol’s verse, with its lack of rhyme and meter, may remind English speakers of the Beats. Topol himself, however, cites his chief poetic influences as Ivan Jirous, aka 'Magor', poet, essayist, and guru of the Czech underground in the 1970s and 1980s; Egon Bondy, a metaphysical philosopher and surrealist poet whose verses served as lyrics for the first album by the Plastic People of the Universe; and Jiří Kolář of Skupina 42 (Group 42), a 1940s association of Czech avant-garde poets and painters inspired by the city and the industrial periphery. Thematically, the three selections here reflect several of Topol’s abiding interests and influences, visible in his novels as well: Native Americans, World War II atrocities, and the spy and adventure stories he devoured as a boy.

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