Milada Součková

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Milada Součková
Born24 January 1898
Died1 February 1983(1983-02-01) (aged 85)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
SubjectHistory, poetry, fiction

Milada Součková (24 January 1898 – 1 February 1983 Cambridge, Massachusetts) was a Czech writer, literary historian and diplomat. She lived and worked in Prague to the end of World War II, and from 1945 in the United States.


Milada Součková was born in a wealthy family in Prague. She studied at the prestigious Minerva high-school together with Milena Jesenská and other emancipated girls. From 1918 she studied sciences at Charles University in Prague where in 1923 graduated with a thesis on plant life. From 1923–24 she attended the University of Lausanne and met her future husband, the painter Zdeněk Rykr. She wrote for several newspapers and journals, met the Russian linguist Roman Jacobson, and in 1936 became a member of the Prague Linguistic Circle. In 1940 her husband committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the Gestapo, and Součková left Prague to live in the countryside. During the occupation she worked with writer Vladislav Vančura on his monumental Obrazy z dějin národa českého (Pictures from the History of Czech Nation) until Vančura's arrest by the Gestapo.

In 1945, after WW II, she was appointed the cultural attaché of the Czechoslovak Embassy in Washington. In protest of the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948, she remained in the United States as an emigrée. Jacobson helped her to enter an academic career in Czech studies, serving between 1950 and 1962 at Harvard University, then at the University of Chicago, and from 1970 to 1973 at the University of California, Berkeley. For the rest of her life she was a librarian at the Widener Library at Harvard.

In 2016, film director Andrea Culková released H*art On, a documentary about the lives of Součková and her husband Zdeněk Rykr. In the film, Součková is portrayed by Czech musical artist Sonja Vectomov.[1][2]


The first literary experiments of Milada Součková were influenced by James Joyce and surrealism. Most of her prose work is stream of consciousness, imaginative, but sober. In her best works she experiments with language, but describes mostly the common daily life. In the US, she wrote mostly poetry in Czech and theoretical works in English. At home, she was unable to publish her literary work, neither under the Nazi nor under the Communist regime; her last novel Neznámý člověk (The Unknown Human, 1962) was published in exile. Her collected works in Czech were published in 11 volumes in Prague to 2009, and in 2010 they earned the Magnesia Litera literary award.


  • První písmena (The first letters), 1934, experimental prose
  • Amor a psyché (Amor and Psyche), 1937, experimental prose
  • Odkaz (The legacy), 1940
  • Zakladatelé (The founders), 1940
  • Bel canto, 1944
  • Hlava umělce (The head of an artist), 1944
  • Neznámý člověk (The unknown human), 1962
  • Der unbekannte Mensch. Stuttgart 1999: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. (German translation)


  • Gradus ad parnassum, 1957
  • Pastorální suita (Pastoral suite), 1962
  • Sešity Josephiny Rykrové (The notebooks of J. R.), 1981

Literary history[edit]

  • A literature in crisis: Czech literature 1938 - 1950, New York 1954
  • The Czech Romantics, s´Gravenhage, Mouton 1958
  • The Parnassian Jaroslav Vrchlický, The Hague, Mouton 1964
  • A literary satellite. Czechoslovak-Russian literary relations. Chicago, U. of Chicago Press 1970
  • Baroque in Bohemia, Ann Arbor, U. of Michigan 1980


  1. ^ Jægtnes, H. S., "The artist’s talking head", Modern Times, Oct 28, 2016 (translated from Norwegian, "Kunstnerens snakkende hode", Ny Tid, Oct 13, 2016).
  2. ^ Institute of Documentary Film, HART*ON, Czech Republic, France, 2016.

External links[edit]


  • Suda, Kristián: Eine unbekannte Autorin. Unbekannte Prosa. Ein unbekannter Mensch. Nachwort in: Milada Součková: Der unbekannte Mensch. Stuttgart 1999: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. S. 231-243. (German)