Julius Zeyer

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Julius Zeyer
Portrait of Julius Zeyer by Jan Vilímek
Portrait of Julius Zeyer by Jan Vilímek
Born(1841-04-26)26 April 1841
Prague, Austrian Empire
Died29 January 1901(1901-01-29) (aged 59)
Prague, Austria-Hungary
Resting placeSlavín
OccupationWriter, poet
Notable worksFantastické povídky
Ondřej Černyšev
Román o věrném přátelství Amise a Amila
Tři legendy o krucifixu
Radúz a Mahulena
Dům U tonoucí hvězdy
Večer u Idalie
Jan Maria Plojhar

Julius Zeyer (26 April 1841 – 29 January 1901) was a Czech prose writer, poet, and playwright.

Personal life[edit]

Zeyer was born in Prague, the son of Elisabeth Eleonora (née Weisseles) and French nobleman Jan Zeyer, a carpenter and timber merchant.[1] His father came from French (Alsatian) nobility, and his mother was from a German Jewish family, which had converted to Catholicism.[2][3] Zeyer learned the Czech language from his nanny. He was expected to take over the family's factory but instead decided to learn carpentering. Attempts to study high school and university were unsuccessful. During his life he frequently traveled in Europe and the Orient. After 1877 he moved to Vodňany, where he spent over a decade with literary work. Afterwards, he returned to Prague. He died in Prague.


Zeyer's prose and poems are restless, nostalgic, mystical, depressive, and usually end tragically. He often blended foreign legends with national themes particular to Czech society and history.[4] Like the Decadents, his work often combines religious and erotic imagery. He was associated with the "Lumír" school, a group of writers that grouped around the magazine of the same name and took their influences from Western Europe, in particular France.[5]

Zeyer's epic poems, including Vyšehrad (1880), Šárka or Karolinská epopej (1896), draw from Czech and French legends respectively, and celebrate the glorious past of ancients, compared to the bleak present. He took inspiration from the Czech, Russian, Irish, French history and Scandinavian myths. His novels describe persons trying to live a better life under the romantic ideals and people who find peace only at the moment of death. His semi-autobiographical novel Jan Maria Plojhar (1891) deals with the tragic nature of an artist. Zeyer's dramatic works were written in a similar style. His work “Tři legendy o krucifixu” (1895) uses the story of Christ's crucifixion to explore themes of Czech Nationalism and the value of art.[6] The first story, “Inultus” follows the story of an Italian sculptress who attempts to create a realistic depiction of the crucifixion. The idea of an artist driven mad by their work is explored in the story and leads to the death of her model, a Czech vagabond named Inultus, whom she murders in a fit of creative insanity.

Josef Suk composed his Pohádka (Fairy Tale) on the play "Radúz a Mahulen" by Zeyer. Composer Leoš Janáček used his theater play about a Slavonic heroine Šárka as a libretto for his opera.


  1. ^ Pynsent, R.B. (1973). Julius Zeyer: The Path to Decadence. Mouton. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  2. ^ Bažant, J.; Bažantová, N.; Starn, F. (2010). The Czech Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780822347941. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  3. ^ Skolnik, F.; Berenbaum, M. (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica. 21. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 9780028659497. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. ^ Naughton, James. "Czech Literature, 1774 to 1918". Oxford University. Archived from the original on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  5. ^ Bolton, Jonathan. "Zeyer, Julius". YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  6. ^ Richter, Vaclav. "Inultus - un conte pragois de Julius Zeyer". Radio Prague. Retrieved 19 October 2012.

External links[edit]