Thursday, July 9, 2020

Born Today July 9: Jan Neruda


Czech writer of many styles and  genres Jan Neopmuk Neruda was born on this day in Prague. Neruda was part of the Czech school of literary realism and was involved with Czech revivalism, a school that started 18th century Prague and was deeply involved in the promotion and standardation of the Czech language--favoring it over romance/Latin languages and local German.  Neruda wrote exclusively in the language.  In this capacity, he became one of the most well known national literary figures of his time, despite that he was deeply shy and quite introverted in his private life.  A journalist by trade, Neruda was very much admired both Czech writers and English authors when he was in grammar school as a young man. He particularly loved reading Shakespeare, but also had a love of the romantic poetry of both Germany and England.  Despite all of this, he went through a rough patch in his life in which he was basically unwelcome in Prague; labeled a "national traitor"(keep in mind that what is now the Czech Republic--Czechia--was then still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire); because of this, Neruda went traveling on the European continent and eventually wound up in Egypt of all places; these have provided some interesting history of these places during the 19th cnetury.  While traveling, he kept a detailed diary of events and keen observations. Outside of his homeland, his Prague Tales have been widely translated, and remain today his most well known and read works.  Given that Neruda was a writer, it's obvious that the write-up here means that his work was used for source material for a silent film screenplay at least once. And, in fact, it was just once.  What is of interest (at least I find it really facinating!) is that the source material used was actually a column (albeit in the form of a story) that he wrote in the capacity as a journalist. This simply does not happen very often: sure plays, novels, short stories, librettos, poems...even placards on paintings have all been used for film scenarios, journalistic columns...not so much. The film in question is a comedy dating from 1924:  Kam s nim? (the column would be remade into a full sound film in 1955).  The film was adaptated from the column by Neruda and directed by Václav Wasserman. This was the only silent film (that we know of) made from his work.  It would be 12 years before another film was produced using his writing for the screenplay; that was another Wasserman film Quarryman (Trhani).  One of his novels was made into a Czech language television series in 1984.  Until 2009, the most recent use of his work came in 1989 with the release of the short horror film Vampyr; 20 years later Beggar's Story, another short, was released--the first of his work to be adapted and directed by woman:  Lucie Groene.  To date this is the most recent film of his work.  All of the 15 films and television productions made from his work has been in the Czech language that he so loved.  In failing health for years due to an inflammatory condition and an accident that left it hard from him to walk, he finally succumbed on the 22nd of August 1891, after a bout with intestinal cancer, at the age of just 57. He is buried at Prague's historical Vysehrad Cemetery which is located at 10th century castle of the same name. 

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