Vitězslav Nezval

Vitězslav Nezval

Vitezslav Nezval

Born in Biskoupky near Moravain Krumlov in 1900, Vitězslav Nezval was one of Czechoslovakia’s most influential literary figures in the first half of the twentieth century. This poet, playwright, writer, essayist, and literary translator was a leading member of the Devětsil, an avant-garde group founded in 1920. The group later formed the theoretical guidelines for Poetism, which advocated a style of living that was favorable to playful artistic expression, and that would enhance the visceral and irrational side of human nature while recognizing its place among the logical and constructive existence of a modern world.

By the 1930s, Devětsil had passed its prime, and Nezval sought new inspiration from the French Surrealists. He traveled to France in the spring of 1933, where on May 9 he met with French Surrealist writer and poet André Breton. Upon his return to Czechoslovakia, Nezval joined with painters Marie Čermínová (better known as Toyen) and Jiří Štyrský to form the Czech Surrealist Group, which became one of the most influential of its kind in Europe.

Farwell and a Handkerchief – Poems from the Road is a collection that Nezval wrote during the aforementioned trip to France in the spring of 1933. First published in 1934, this critically-acclaimed work manifests his transition from Poetism to Surrealism. Vitězslav Nezval died in 1958 of a heart attack triggered by an outbreak of scarlet fever.