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'Ποιήτοῦ άδήλου ΆΣΤΡΟΝΑΥΤΙΛÍΑ ἢ ἡ Μικροοδυσσεία ἡ κοσμική' - An unknown poet's Starvoyage, or Small Space Odyssey
Astronautilia - Hvezdoplavba.gif
First edition cover
Author Ἰωάννης Πυρεῖα = Jan Křesadlo, "Nemo"
Country Czech Republic Czech literature
Language Greek, Czech, Latin, English
Genre epic poem, hexameter, Science fiction, satire, poetry, postmodern
Publisher Ivo Železný
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 542
ISBN 8023724525

based on the Czech Wikipedia entry

Ἰωάννης Πυρεῖα = (Jan Křesadlo) 'Ποιήτοῦ άδήλου ΆΣΤΡΟΝΑΥΤΙΛÍΑ ἢ ἡ Μικροοδυσσεία ἡ κοσμική' - An unknown poet's Starvoyage, or Small Space Odyssey (1994) is the supreme literary work of poet and writer Jan Křesadlo, one of the most unusual works of twentieth century Czech literature. It was published shortly after his death, as a commemorative first edition. (ISBN 80-237-2452-5)

While no full English translation exists as yet, there is a sample chapter translation online,[1] and a German translation of the fully transcribed and annotated Greek text is in preparation.[2]

Plot synopsis[edit]

The work is an epic poem, comprising 6575 verses of hexameter in Homeric Ancient Greek, with parallel translation into Czech hexameter. The postmodern science fiction story is inspired by the philosophical postulate of quantum physics, that for something to exist it must be observed. The Watcher over the Cosmos turns out to be a certain sheep. To kill the sheep would mean the end of everything. The Sheep, that Watches the Cosmos is kidnapped by a villain called Mandys, and pursued by a rapid reaction commando force, whose captain is called Udeis, (= nobody, following the example of Captain Nemo).


Aside from the science fiction and epic poem aspects, the postmodern playfulness of the plot itself is underlined by the Czech language Prologue (see part translation [3]) in Karel Čapek mystification style. Jan Křesadlo purports to have came into the whole process not as the author, but as a translator of the Greek original "by an unknown author." We are to believe this is a real travelogue, whose alleged author is a space-time travelling Captain Udeis / Nemo, (as confirmed by "copyright Nemo" for the Greek text edition.) Nemo's travelogue was dictated to his universal translator Franta (which is a creature resembling a skunk, but made entirely of brain tissue.) Franta, who lacked common sense, thought it wise to write it all down in Homeric Greek, so as to make it more famous. At least, that is the claim made to Křesadlo by the 'archivist Divíšek' (a reference to Čapek's character of the same name) who brings the Greek text to Křesadlo for translation. (Albeit Křesadlo supposes that Divíšek wrote it himself.)

The text begins with a Latin summary for the erudite non-Czech reader. Greek neologisms are explained in a Greek-English glossary.


  1. Preface
  2. Epistola ad Lector doctum
  3. Synopsis brevior
  4. Prologue

The actual plot is divided according to the Greek alphabet into 24 stories, each a standalone tale on some planet, akin to the television series Star Trek.

  1. α - Preamble. The Sheep that watches the Cosmos, and the beginning of the thief Mandys' Starvoyage.
  2. β - About the lesbians.
  3. γ - About the beaked ones.
  4. δ - About the zoophytes.
  5. ε - About the degenerates.
  6. ζ - About the binary planet and other things.
  7. η - About the kosmobionts. Nemo's bravery.
  8. θ - About the butterflies, Grogals and the prophet.
  9. ι - About the tailed women and fakedogs.
  10. κ - About the kangaroos and Mandys' capture and escape.
  11. λ - About celibate men and what it entailed.
  12. μ - The Battle of men and women. Nemo as captive and gladiator. Robot bravery. Royal treachery.
  13. ν - About various creatures on the planets.
  14. ξ - The astronauts' Council. The Recreational planet. Kypta's iniquity and persecution.
  15. ο - About the royal daughter, the monster and generous saviors in accordance with the archetypal scheme.
  16. π - The Robot uprising. Franta's folly and his cure.
  17. ρ - About the robbers and on capturing Elefant and Franta.
  18. σ - About Grogal's temple and its guardians. Burda's prominence. The parrot centaurs.
  19. τ - Grogal the Prophet's divination.
  20. υ - About other space pirates and strange planets, especially the hypnotic animals.
  21. φ - About Guardians of Time. Franta's dexterity and bravery.
  22. χ - Mandys' interception and guile.
  23. ψ - Mandys' deceit and escape. The arrival of the time keepers and their meddling. Nemo, Franta and Tonda hunting Mandys.
  24. ω - Mandys and the sheep captured. The Poem's resolution and finale.

Followed by:

  1. Comment on the finished translation (poem)
  2. Greek-English Glossary of unusual words
  3. Τὸ τοῦ ἔπους εὑρητήριον (Greek index)


From the Preamble/Prooimion.[4]

Ἀρχόμενος πρῶτον Μουσῶν χορῷ εἰξ Ἑλικῶνος / εὔχομαι ἐκπάγλως καὶ Ἀπόλλωνι ἄνακτι / Μουσάων ἄρχοντι καλῷ ἰδὲ δαίμον 'ἀοιδῶν / ὄφρ εἴποιεν ἐμὴν κόσμου γλαφυροῖο πόρευσιν / θαύματα πλανητῶν καὶ ἀνδρῶν ὄβριμα ἔργα, / οἷά τε δειξάμενοι πλέομεν δνοφερὸν διὰ χάσμα / πλοίαρχος μὲν ἐγὼ καὶ ἐμοὶ ἐρίηρες ἑταῖροι / Μανδὺν ζητοῦντες καὶ μῆλον κοσμοθεωροῦν. / ἔσπετε νῦν ἡμῖν τάδε, ὦ θεὸς ἠὲ θέαιναι.

To begin, first the Muses' choir dwelling on Helikonos / I invoke with all might, as do also the ruler Apollo, / the fine ruler of Muses and also the god of all poets, / let them witness my voyage through the void of the cosmos, / the planet'ry wonders, and also the great deeds of men, / done as we voyaged out there through the black chasm, / myself, the ship's captain, and also my worthy companions, / for Mandys searching and the sheep which watches the cosmos, / tell us of this now, oh god, ye godesses also!

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Further reading[edit]