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Portrait of Alois Jirásek by Jan Vilímek.
August 23, 1851|
Hronov, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austrian Empire
|Died||March 12, 1930
Alois Jirásek (Czech pronunciation: [ˈalojs ˈjɪraːsɛk]) (August 23, 1851, Hronov, Kingdom of Bohemia – March 12, 1930, Prague) was a Czech writer, author of historical novels and plays. Jirásek was a high school history teacher in Litomyšl and later in Prague until his retirement in 1909. He wrote a series of historical novels imbued with faith in his nation and in progress toward freedom and justice. He was close to many important Czech personalities like M.Aleš, J.V. Sládek, K.V. Rais or Z.J. Nejedlý. He attended an art club in Union Cafe with them. He worked as a redactor in Zvon magazine and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1918, 1919, 1921 and 1930.
Alois Jirásek was born on August 23, 1851, in Hronov, in the Kingdom of Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), which was at that time part of the Austrian Empire. He was born in a family of small farmers and weavers of modest means. His father was Josef Jirásek (1822–1901) who worked as a weaver at first and as a baker afterwards. His mother's name was Vincencie Jirásková, née Prouzová (1821–1887). Alois had eight siblings: Helena, Josef, Emília, Rudolf, Žofie, Božena, Adolf and Antonín. He attended German Benedictine High School in Broumov (1863–1867), and Czech High School in Hradec Králové (1867–71). Then he studied history at the Charles University (1871–74). After finishing his studies he moved back to Litomyšl where he taught history. He also wrote his first important works (The Philosophers' Story or Psohlavci). August 11, 1879 he got married to Marie Podhajská. They had eight kids together, seven daughters and one son.
In 1888 they moved to Prague. They weren't satisfied with the first two apartments; after five years they finally found the perfect one. It was Ressl street, close to today's Jirasek square, where is Alois' memorial. In this apartment they lived from 1903 until his death in 1930. He continued in his career in Prague (as a high-school teacher) and in his literature works. Living in Prague gave him the opportunity to meet artistic and scientific world. He started meeting up with Mikoláš Aleš with whom he shared the same artistic ideas and plans. He became friends with Zikmund Winter, K.V. Rais, but also with the younger generation: Josef Svatopluk Machar or Zdeněk Nejedlý. All of his dramas were written in Prague. On July 3, 1908 he was elected a member of Czech academy of arts and sciences.
He retired in 1909 and he dedicated most of his time to literature. He often visited his home town Hronov, but he also travelled around Europe; he talks about it in some of his works. He visited Chodsko, Dresden, Italy, Slovakia and Bled.
In 1917 he was one of the first to sign Manifesto of Czech writers, which is an important proclamation that supports political efforts to have independent country for Czechs. On October 28, 1918 Izidor Zahradník and Alois took part in the reading of the declaration of Czechoslovakia's independence. December 21, 1918 Alois was greeting Tomáš Masaryk with a great speech. Alois was meeting up with president Masaryk a lot.
Charles university awarded Alois with honorary doctorate from philosophy in 1919. High School in Ressl street changed its name to Jirasek's High School. He became a member of parliament in Revolutionary National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic. In 1920 he became a senator in National Assembly. He was a senator until 1925. In the parliament he sat for Czechoslovak National Democracy.
He continued in his political career until he wasn't able to write anymore because he was sick. In September 1921 he got out of the Roman Catholic Church; he still was a Christian believer, but he didn't entry any other Church. In year 1918, 1919, 1921 and 1930 he was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature.
On March 12, 1930 he died in Prague, but was buried in his home town, Hronov. On March 15, the night before his funeral, there was a memorial service in front of the National Museum in Prague. Karel Kramář and František Soukup had a speech there. National funeral took place in the National Museum. Since Alois wasn't a member of any church anymore, the Catholic Church forbid to ring the bells to churches in Prague. There was no priest at his funeral. T.G. Masaryk, many politicians, college teachers, and diplomats came to his funeral. Ivan Dérer, Jaroslav Kvapil and Rudolf Medek had a speech there. After the cremation they moved the urn to Hronov, but they stop in many Czech cities. The last part of the funeral took place in Hronov. There were no church bells ringing; mourners could hear famous pieces by J.B. Foerster.
Jirásek is definitely one of the most important Czech writers. He used a lot of historical details to deeply describe the age he was writing about. The characters in his books are history makers. He excelled in making the harmony between individual and general meaning of the characters. He always intended to picture the social happenings, that's why individuals have such traits so they could represent the age and its tendencies that they lived in.
Alois started off his career with verses in national and patriotic style. His prose works aim to the reality of contemporary countrysides. He started to write in the 1870s but was still active in the 1920s.
His first larger work was a historical story Skaláci (1875). The last work was a novel Husistký král that was never finished.
For more than 50 years he had been writing stories ( Povídka z hor 1878, Z bouřlivých dob 1879, Rozmanitá próza). His first story was Poklad (1873).
The range of all the historical events that are in Jirasek's works is remarkably comprehensive. It includes mythical periods (Staré pověsti české 1894 that are read by youth for its verses). The same happy endings had smaller ballads, romancer, searched by publishers, illustrators, and then by filmmakers (Filosofická historie 1888, Maryla 1885, Zahořanský hon 1889, Balda z rokoka 1905). He wrote novels V cizích službách (1885) and Psohlavci (1884). He is an author of many chronicles, too. It compounded the changes in Bohemia from the beginning of Hussites (Mezi proudy I-III 1887-1890, Proti všem 1893, Bratrstvo I-III 1900-1909), recatholization pressure (Temno 1913), the uprising of the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 18th century (F. L. Věk I-V 1906, U nás I-IV 1896-1903).
Successful dramas from contemporary village contributed to the support of realism on the stage (Vojnarka 1890, Otec 1894). Emigrant (1898) was a historical drama, it had tree parts: Jan Hus, Jan Žižka, Jan Roháč.
- Staré pověsti české (1894) – corps of legends from forefather Čech, through prince perios, hussites, to the period of Battle of White Mountain
- Mezi proudy (1887–1890) – about hussites, main characters– Hus, Žižka, Václav IV., arcibiskup Jan z Jenštejna
- Proti všem (1893) – about hussites, building of Tábor, and about battle of Vítkov.
- Bratrstvo (1900–1909) – three-part novel about the decline of hussites after the Battle of Lipany and about the leaving of their army to Slovakia under the control of Jan Jiskra z Brandýsa
- Husitský král (1920–1930) – novel, the main character is Jiří z Poděprad represented as strong ruler, Alois never finished it due to his sickness, only the first two parts came out
- Z Čech až na konec světa (1888) – about diplomatic mission of Jiří z Poděbrad
- Slavný den (1879) – novel in years 1419-1420 that includes age of the death of Václav IV.
- Konec a počátek (1879) – novel in years 1452-1453 taking place in the castle Litice, talks about the birth of Jednota bratrská
- román se odehrává v letech 1452–1453 na hradě Litice, kde je vězněn Václav Koranda starší, a líčí zánik táborství a vznik Jednoty bratrské
- Zemanka (1885) – story from the age after Battle of Lipany about fate love of Eliška to Laurin
- V cizích službách (1883) – novel happening in 16. century in age of Vladislav Jagellonský that shows tragic destinies of descendants of Taborites
- Maryla (1885) – love story from age of Poděbradská
- Temno (1913–1915) – age of the biggest oppression of the Czech nation. Spiritual life was controlled by the Catholic Church - the jesuits; non-cathlolic people had secret meetings and read the Bible and other forbidden literature. For that they were persecuted by the Jesuits. Temno became the most famous Czech book during the First World War.
- Psohlavci (1884) – novel happening in 17. century
- Skaláci (1875) – about peasant rebellion in 1775
- Skály (1886) – about The Thirty Years' War. Talks about the Křinecká family from Ronov.
- F. L. Věk (1888–1906) – five-part novel, the main character is František Ladislav Věk from Dobruška. The aim was to show the process of Czech National Revival in Prague and in Dobruška. Historical personalities: Václav Thám, Václav Matěj Kramerius
- U nás (1896–1903) – four-part chronicle (Úhor, Novina, Osetek, Zeměžluč) taking place in Náchod and Hronov (Padolí), the main chraracter is priest.
- Filosofská historie (1878) – about lives of students living in Litomyšl and about fights in Prague in 1848.
- Kolébka (1891) – comedy, happening in age of Václav IV.
- Emigrant (1898) – drama happening in 1741 in Police nad Metují
- M. D. Rettigová (1901) – drama
- Gero (1904) – tragedy
- Lucerna (1905) – drama that connects real world with tales.
- Vojnarka (1890) – tragedy of old love that was never fulfilled
- Otec (1894) – drama about envy and greed
- Samota (1908) – drama
- Zkouška (1894) – drama. taking place around Litomyšl
- Pan Johanes (1909) – tale
- Josef B. Michl, Laureatus Laureata, ARCA JiMfa, Třebíč, 1995, str. 372-382
- Hrbkova 1920, p. 221.
- VORLÍČKOVÁ, Marie. Tou cestou jsem šel: nástin životopisu Aloise Jiráska. 3. díl : V Praze. In: MAŇÁKOVÁ, Marcela, ed. a MIKULÁŠEK, Alexej, ed. Sborník Společnosti Aloise Jiráska. 3. Praha: Společnost Aloise Jiráska, 1998. 245 s. [[Speciální:Zdroje knih/808611712X|ISBN 80-86117-12-X]]. [Práce M. Vorlíčkové je otištěna na str. 3–210; viz str. 11–13.]
- Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Jirásek, Alois". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Hrbkova, Šárka B. (1920). Czechoslovak Stories. Duffield (original from the Princeton University). p. 221.
- Works by Alois Jirásek accessible online in the catalogue of the Municipal Library in Prague (in Czech; no registration needed).
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