Sunday, 25 July 2010

Grave of Jan Neruda

It will come as no surprise to devotees of Pablo Neruda, the great South American Nobel Prize winner, to know that he adopted his surname as a homage to Jan Neruda, the Czech poet who is buried here in Vyšehrad's 'Hall of Fame'.

The original Neruda, who died thirteen years before the birth of his Chilean namesake, also came from a working class background, and spent his life observing and commenting on the foibles of the bourgeois inhabitants of Malá Strana, Prague's 'Lesser Quarter'. It was an area Neruda knew well: he began his literary career in the House of the Two Suns on the street directly below Prague Castle which used to be known as Ostruhová. The steep and ancient royal route, lined then as now with hotels and government buildings, is today named in the writer's honour: Nerudova.

His 'Povídky malostranské' (Tales of the Lesser Quarter) is highly recommended, especially the satire 'Doctor Spoiler', about a physician whose reputation soars when he pronounces a dead man alive, and is thereafter much in demand - especially, as Neruda wryly remarks, 'from people whose death would have given large numbers great joy'.  There's an English version by Michael Heim, and another by Edith Pargeter, the Shropshire-born author of the Brother Cadfael mysteries.

In 2009, the poems of Jan Neruda achieved new heights - literally so - when his 'Pisně kosmické' (Cosmic songs) were taken into space on one of the final missions of the US space shuttle by an American astronaut of Czech descent, Andrew Feustel. The honour would have no doubt amazed and delighted Neruda, who was a keen scientist and godfather to the astronomer Josef Frič, buried in the adjacent plot.


Luis Gomez said...

Great info. Thank you so much.

Jilly said...

This is fascinating. I have a book of Pablo Neruda's poetry and had no idea he was named after Jan Neruda. Your blog is always full of such interesting information written in such an easy and concise way.

What a different way (to me) of showing Jan Neruda's dates of birth and death.

Alex Went said...

Ah yes, indeed! I briefly mentioned this dating convention in an earlier post . It's quite fascinating, isn't it? I use it occasionally on postcards!

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