Vladimír Holan: Vigil of the Heart, exhibition marking 100 years from the poet´s birth

The Museum of Czech Literature is staging an exhibition entitled Nocni hlídka srdce (“Vigil of the Heart”), with a view to presenting to the general public the literary legacy of Vladimir Holan, a poet whose work´s message in its time reached beyond the boundaries of this country´s literary context. A rare product of Czech literature, it combines a highly individual approach to universal human issues with an existentialist idiom which in its turn integrates Holan´s work into the canon of world literary heritage. The exhibition draws a parallel between the time of Holan´s collections of verse, and a carefully picked array of paintings, drawings and photographs by the poet´s friends, including Josef Capek, Alen Divis, Bohuslav Reynek, Josef Sudek, Bedrich Stefan and Josef Sima, as well as of his coevals Frantisek Hudecek, Frantisek Muzika, Ladislav Zivr, Jiri Kolar, Mikulas Medek, Robert Piesen, and others, whose works share the common denominator of echoing the century which witnessed two world wars. This framework of classic painting is further supplemented by works of contemporary artists: a kinetic object by Adela Matasova created specifically to harmonize with the venue´s Mannerist architecture; pastels by Karel Malich; illustrations by Adriena Simotova and Oldrich Hamera; photographs by Milena Dopitova; large-scale photos by Jiri Cernicky; and a video by Janka Vidová, all of which represent the virtual reality of the new art media. Holan´s literary portrait is completed by a documentary film entitled O dvacate pate hodine (“On the Twenty-fifth Hour”), directed by Jan Soukup, dealing with the poet as a man and with his work. The documentary was made at the initiative of Czech Television.

The ground-plan of Star Summer house, divided into five relatively self-contained spaces, makes it possible to display the poet´s work using not only standard exhibition procedures, but also various audiovisual means (involving clips from Holan´s authentic readings of his verse, as well as the use of music and film documentaries). The show, which is focused chiefly on Holan´s poetry, aims at pinpointing the core of his creative inspiration; key motives recurring in his verse, impulses furnished by various epic stories, and finally, documents concerning the ultimate stage of his poetic experimenting embodied by the collection, Noc s Hamletem (“A Night with Hamlet”), are complemented in the castle´s corridors by materials illustrating the literary and social context of the poet´s time, as well as fragments from his personal life. These exhibits include correspondence between Vladimir Holan and major Czech poets and artists (Jakub Deml, Frantisek Hrubin, Bohuslav Reynek, Jaroslav Seifert, Josef Capek, Josef Sima, Frantisek Tichy, Josef Vasica), plus miscellaneous other written material and photographs. The exhibition´s final section points to the poet´s international renown. The coming centenary of Holan´s birth is also being marked by a congress of Bohemian scholars devoted to the poet´s literary legacy.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue containing essays by Giuseppe Dierna and Xavier Galmiche, and an extensive biography of the poet compiled by the author of the show´s literary scenario and co-author of the documentary film Alena Petruzelkova, and the exhibition´s curator Vera Jirousova.

Dr. Vera Jirousova
Star Summer house, Prague, Czech Republic, 2005