Rio Preisner

Rio Preisner

) was a Czech poet, philosopher, translator, scholar of Czech and German literature.

With Jakub Deml and Jan Zahradníček, Rio Tomaš Preisner forms the triumvirate of twentieth century Czech Catholic poets. His philosophical, narrative verse (such as that found in the volumes Zasuto, Královská cesta and Visuté mosty) is dense and allusive, and concentrates on historical and cultural processes in a manner that reminds one of Eliot, Pound, and other European modernists. The lyrics contained in the volumes Odstup, Zvíře dětství and Praha za času plujících ker are more personal. In the first two one finds reflections on his own childhood, during which the boy, raised in an agnostic household, matures to embrace the Roman Catholic faith of his grandparents, and the last contains an interesting cycle of his reflections on the changing face of Prague, which he visited for the first time in 1990 after two decades of exile.

Although he was born in the easternly-lying town of Mukačevo (presently in the Ukraine), where he was exposed to a multicultural environment of Czech, Slovak, German, Ukrainian, Hungarian and Jewish communities (Mukačevo possessed the only gymnasium in all of Europe with Hebrew as a language of instruction), Preisner grew up in Prague. His adolescence was passed in the shadow of the Nazi protectorate. He graduated from high school (receiving his maturita) in 1944, at which time he was drafted to work in the Českomoravská-Kolben-Daněk factory in Prague, building Panzer tanks. At the end of the war he studied in the German and English Departments of Charles University, obtaining his doctorate in 1950 with a dissertation on Franz Werfel. For the next year, he taught in the German Department of Charles University, and worked as a literary translator for the Mladá Fronta and Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury publishing houses.

One month after his marriage to the art historian Olga Wittová in 1952, he was arrested and sentenced to hard labour in a Stalinist labour camp. He had no idea as to the length of his sentence. "It was rumoured that I was to be sent to Siberia," he once said. "Only Stalin's death, and the following thaw, averted this fate." His imprisonment lasted from 1 October 1952 to 28 November 1954.

Upon his return to Prague, he taught German in the Státní jazyková škola (State Academy of Languages) until 1965. He also worked as a free-lance translator, and lent his hand in attempts at reforming the Československá strana lidová (Czechoslovak People's Party). In 1968, he won the Mladá fronta newspaper's literary prize for his Kafkaesque novel Kapiláry.

That same year, after the Warsaw Pact's squelching of the Prague Spring, he, his wife Olga, and their daughter Ruth left Prague for exile, first in Vienna, and later, from 1969, in the USA. The overwhelmingly positive response in Europe to the German edition of his critical work on Nestroy (see below) was the effectual cause of his being offered a professorship at Penn State.

From 1969 to his retirement in 1992, Preisner was Professor of German at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park. There, he taught both graduate and undergraduate students, and directed many MA and PhD theses in German, Czech, and Comparative Literature. After his retirement, he and his wife moved to the Pittsburgh area, where he continued to write. His works, banned for some two decades, were again being published in the Czech Republic, and received with critical acclaim.

Preisner belonged to the Svaz československých spisovatelů (Czechoslovak Writers' Union), the PEN-Club (Vienna), and the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also named Fellow of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Penn State University. In 2000, President Václav Havel advarded him the medal "Za zásluhy" (For Meritorious Service) to the state in field of culture and scholarship.

Bibliography

Poetry

1968— Kapiláry (Capillaries) Brno: Blok. I: Pan Schwitter platí účet v DVSP (Mr SchwitterPays His Dues); II: Půdorys města (City Plan)1977—Odstup (Distance) Montréal/Zurich.1978—Zvíře dětství (The Animal of Childhood) Munich: Poezie mimo Domov.1980—Zasuto (Buried Layers Deep) Munich: Jadrný Verlag.1989—Královská cesta (The Royal Road) London: Rozmluvy1992—Visuté mosty (Hanging Bridges) Prague: Rozmluvy1992—Praha za času plujících ker (Prague in Thaw) Prague: Pražská imaginace.1994—Vídeňské veduty (Viennese veduti) Prague: Proglas 8/941996—Visuté mosty: Selected Poems translated into English by C.S. Kraszewski Rome/Svitavy: Accademia Cristiana/Trinitas. 1997—Básně (Collected Poems) Prague: Torst

Prose: Criticism, Philosophy, Political Science, History, Cultural History

1968—Jan Nepomuk Nestroy: Tvůrce tragické frašky (Jan Nepomuk Nestroy: Creator of the Tragifarce. Prague. German edition JNN: Der Schöpfer der tragischen Posse published 1968 by Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich.1973—Kritika totalitarismu (A Critique of Totalitarianism) London: Rozmluvy.1977—Aspekte einer provokativen tschechischen Germanistik (Aspects of Provocative Czech German Studies. Vol 1: Kafka—Nestroy. Würzburg: Jal Verlag. Published as vol. 8 in the series "Colloquium Slavicum."1981—Kultura bez konce (Culture Without End) Munich.— Aspekte einer provokativen tschechischen Germanistik (Aspects of Provocative Czech German Studies. Vol 2: Avantgarde—Ideologie. Würzburg: Jal Verlag. Published as vol. 12 in the series "Colloquium Slavicum."1984—Česká existence (Czech Existence) London: Rozmluvy.1987—Až na konec Česka (To the Very End of the Czechia) London: Rozmluvy.1992—Americana Brno: Atlantis. 2 vols.1996—Kultura bez konce (Culture Without End) Re-issue with Václav Černý's O povaze naší kultury—On the Character of our Culture) Brno: Atlantis.1999—O životě a smrti konzervatismu (On the Life and Death of Conservatism) Olomouc: Votobia, 1999 2003—Když myslím na Evropu (When I Think of Europe: Collected Essays), Vol. I Prague: Torst2004—Když myslím na Evropu (When I Think of Europe: Collected Essays), Vol. II Prague: Torst

Translations of German and English Authors:

Christian Geisler. Žádám odpověď (Anfrage—The Question)Johannes Bobrowski. Levinův mlýn (Levins Mühle—Levin's Mill)H. Broch. Smrt Vergilova (Tod des Vergil—The Death of Vergil) —Náměsíčníci (Die Schlafwandler—The Sleepwalkers)Hans Helmut Kirst. Nula osm patnáct (Null acht fünfzehn—0815)Stefan Zweig. Strach (Angst—Fear)Hans Jakub Christoffel Von Grimmelshausen. Poběhlice Kuráž (Landstörzerin Courasche— Mother Courasche the Beggar) —Divous Skočdopole (Der seltsame Springinsfeld—The Antic Springinsfeld)H. Hesse. Klingsorovo poslední léto a jiné prózy (Klingsors letzter Sommer, Morgenlandfahrt—Klingsors' Last Summer and other Prose Tales)Jean-Paul. Doktor Škrtikočka jede do lázní. Hrst aforismů (Doktor Katzenbergers Badereise, Aphorismen—Doctor Katzenberger's Trip to the Spa, Aphorisms).Erich Auerbach. Mimesis (with V. Kafka and M. Žiliná)Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Soudce a jeho kat, Malér (Der Richter und sein Henker, Die Panne—The Judge and His Hangman, The Breakdown)Franz Kafka. Aphorisms.

Poets translated by Rio Preisner

* Karl Kraus
* Rainer Marie Rilke
* Friedrich Hölderlin
* Gottfried Benn
* T. S. Eliot
* Gerard Manley Hopkins

Persondata
NAME=Preisner, Rio
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Czech poet
DATE OF BIRTH=13 November 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH=Mukačevo, Czechoslovakia
DATE OF DEATH=2 August 2007
PLACE OF DEATH=Indianola, Pennsylvania USA


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