Broadcast in English Broadcast Archive. Today we look at a Czech poet who is one of the icons of 19th century Czech literature, Karel Jaromir Erben. I'm going to be talking to someone who knows a great deal about Erben, Susan Reynolds, who is curator of Czech and Slovak literature at the British Library in London. She has recently completed the first ever full English translation of Erben's most famous work, "Kytice" or "The Bouquet". We'll start with the opening few lines of "The Water-Goblin". Just to put it into context, these are some of the most famous lines in Czech poetry.
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Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Kytice. Feb 20, Milja rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. I did read this book in Czech, however i will write the review in english; I am not that huge fan of our Slavic literature, no matter which region it comes from. However, this is my number 1 book when it comes to both Czech and Slavic literature.
I think that Erben did an amazing job in presenting the Czech folklore and legends in that pure, real and original form yet shaped so that it can be timeless. And kudos for in delivering them in their original, scary and even bizarre light. I absolutel I did read this book in Czech, however i will write the review in english; I am not that huge fan of our Slavic literature, no matter which region it comes from. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone.
Kytice, Kytice, where have you been all my life? First published in the middle of XIX century, when Czech language was still pretty much an outcast in its own country, it became one of the most beloved and inspiring pieces of literature for the next generations. Which is sort of very cool and amazing, because the subject - folklore tales - wa Kytice, Kytice, where have you been all my life? Which is sort of very cool and amazing, because the subject - folklore tales - was full of stories about ghosts, dead husbands, bloodthirsty supernatural creatures, doomed virgins etc What's not to like?
View all 4 comments. I came across Kytice after reading an interview in which it was recommended by author Helen Oyeyemi, and I am thankful for her for bringing attention to this lovely little book. Kytice , usually translated into English as Bouquet but meaning something closer to A Handful of Wild-flowers , is a collection of Czech folk-tales written in rhyming verse. The format is a little difficult to get used to, but Kytice is an astonishing piece of work on behalf of both the author, Karel Erben, and perhaps even I came across Kytice after reading an interview in which it was recommended by author Helen Oyeyemi, and I am thankful for her for bringing attention to this lovely little book.
The format is a little difficult to get used to, but Kytice is an astonishing piece of work on behalf of both the author, Karel Erben, and perhaps even more so, the translator, Susan Reynolds. To translate both the meaning and the form of such strictly rhyming folk-songs is an astonishing feat. I can't speak Czech, so cannot comment on how accurate the translation is, but it certainly captures the feeling of a true fairy tale.
An authentic fairy tale, one neither too artificially sweetened or full of obnoxious modern psychological undertones, is difficult to describe but instantly recognisable.
These tales are full of darkness and violence true, for what is a fairy tale without spilled blood? But there is always a powerful moral undercurrent running underneath, a system of punishment and reward often unpalatable to a modern audience.
A woman carrying her baby comes across a fairy barrow on her way to church and finds it is full of heaps of gold and silver. She fills her apron with coins, and temporarily sets the child down in the barrow, intending to return to it once she has secured the treasure.
Anyone with any familiarity with almost any fairy tradition from around the world can guess what happens next. Many of the poems could be described as horror. Witches, goblins and revenants abound, often clashing with the Christian church. The Virgin Mary here can be as capricious as any pagan goddess, but redemption is available for even monsters.
Zahor's Bed , probably my favourite of the tales, features the various encounters between a priest and a flesh-eating forest spirit. However, the most awful danger in any tale is not any supernatural creature, but the all-too human capacity for self-destruction, and it is perhaps this detail that makes these poems ring so morally true. Dreamlike and nightmarish, horrible and beautiful, Kytice is a handful of wild-flowers we are lucky to have dried, preserved and stuck between pages for posterity.
View 1 comment. Above the river Orlice I saw a church and heard its golden bell. It extinguished the rush of fierce passion first, then the ancient Czech sincerity. There is probably not a more important book in the Czech language than this slim volume of thirteen lyrical works of folklore. From the stream the frogs emerge, croaking out a funeral dirge.
Most of the other tales, on the other hand, are delightful and straightforward, told to explain phenomena of human life and nature. There are tales of water sprites luring young maidens into watery depths, deathly struggles with noon witches arriving to take noisy children away, and pilgrims travelling to hell and back.
Other tales are cautionary, relating in grueling details the destinies that befall women somehow always women , who are greedy, or envious, or who dishonor their husbands. Travelling in the Scandinavian countries, I have had similar experiences in Iceland, Norway and Finland.
Like the Czech people, these peoples have gained independence within the last years from Danish, Swedish and Russian rule, respectively. View 2 comments. Macabre poetry. A breathless ride through gothic visions, like being taken by a skeletal hand and flown over 19th century Eastern European peasant landscapes.
Some of the poems are breathtaking but unfortunately few are way to hard to read, and therefore hard to enjoy. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy-tales.
I flew through the whole thing in a day and look forward to re-reading them already. Fairy-tales from Europe especially tend to tell similar stories with slightly different settings or added details.
Perhaps because it is told in poems, which added a nice touch to the fami I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy-tales. Perhaps because it is told in poems, which added a nice touch to the familiar tropes of tales in threes. Some of the stories are dark and foreboding and the poems lent themselves nicely to that tone. I also enjoyed this style because the escalation in the stories is so fast.
One line describes a walk in the forest and the next is a gruesome murder. Czech must read classic! Loved it. So dark and full of gore. Review originally posted at Eve's Alexandria, October A copy was sent to me, very kindly, by marvellous Prague-based small publisher Twisted Spoon Press, who specialise in English translations of Central and Eastern European fiction.
The book itself is a lovely object Review originally posted at Eve's Alexandria, October Sulak explains that Erben produced A Bouquet as part of the 19th-century 'National Revival' movement, which sought to make Czech a literary language for the first time, in reaction to the long-standing political and cultural weight of German within the Hapsburg empire.
The thirteen tales here comprise, Sulak says, "a literary depiction of the Czech national character". Without wanting to go too far down the road of what constitutes an 'authentic' folktale, or even whether 'authenticity' is a meaningful term to apply to the genre at all, it seems to me that Erben's tales - like many fairytale compilations of the same period from elsewhere in Europe - are perhaps best understood as poetic compositions embroidered upon the idea of a Czech 'folk' tradition, rather than a strict representation of it.
They are an elaboration and imagining of what it might mean to be Czech, and to live in a Czech landscape - Sulak highlights "the intimacy with the natural world and its forces" present in many of the stories - that was created for the era of nationalisms. There are plenty of familiar motifs. The archetypal evil stepmother, for example, turns up in 'The Golden Spinning Wheel', in which a girl named Dora catches the fancy of a passing king, and is promptly murdered by her stepmother and stepsister, so that the stepsister can go to the rather abrupt wedding ceremony and marry said king in Dora's place.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that one shouldn't agree to marry a man who can't tell you and your stepsister apart? The comeuppance for the scheming steps strongly recalls that of 'The Two Sisters': Dora's bones are made into a spinning wheel, and when the spinning wheel is used at the king's court, it sings the truth of what happened to poor Dora.
Another surrogate maternal figure, the mother-in-law, proves equally dangerous in 'Lily' at least by implication, since in this one we aren't shown the death ; "You poisoned the flower of my life", the woman's son says, returning from a military campaign to find his young wife dead.
Spinning - as women's work, and as a demarcator of women's spaces - features in a number of the tales. The poor heroine of 'Wedding Shirts', meanwhile, faithfully spins and sews to be a good wife to her absent lover, only for him to return dead, tricksy, and determined to take her to the grave with him. This particular tale is a good one to demonstrate Erben's style, which builds tension through rhythm and repetition to considerable effect.
Karel Jaromír Erben
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? First published in , these poems are among the best-loved and most widely read 19th century Czech classics. Kytice was inspired by Erben's love of Slavonic myth and the folklore surrounding such creatures as the Noonday Witch and the Water Goblin. Read more Read less. Review '
Karel Jaromir Erben - one of the greatest of all Czech poets, now at last in English translation