Wikipedia:List of hoaxes on Wikipedia/The Lying Student

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The Lying Student (Czech: Ležící Studenta) is a Czech satirical poem written by Jára Svěrák, framed as a traditional epic poem. It was originally written in 1914, but its publication was stalled due to the outbreak of World War I. It was not released until the 1980s. The poem is a work of absurdist fiction.[1]

Plot synopsis

The poem is divided into four sections.

  • Section 1 (lines 1–51) takes the form of a bildungsroman, and tells the story of Parizek, a young Bohemian boy who leaves his village after his father is murdered by his uncle. He eventually arrives in Southern Ukraine, where he is welcomed by the locals. Twenty years later, he returns to his home and avenges his father's death.
  • Section 2 (lines 52–145) is told in first person by Vilém, a young student who has just finished writing the story of Parizek as a work of fiction. That night, in a dream sequence, an army of demons carries him away to a crescent-shaped island for refusing to believe in the story himself. There he spends 20 years listening to stories told by a human-headed bird resembling the mythological gamayun. From the bird, Vilém perfects the art of storytelling.
  • Section 3 (lines 146–303) begins when Vilém wakes up. He rewrites his story and publishes it in a newspaper. Believing it to be true, the Czech people make Parizek into a national hero and use him to inspire a rebellion.
  • In Section 4 (lines 304–380), Vilém is put on trial by the Austro-Hungarian Empire for creating the fictional character that incited rebellion. Vilém is banished, just like his protagonist was. The last pages of the manuscript, containing the ending, has been lost.[2]


Jára Svěrák, a poor man from Prague, wrote the text over almost a decade. It was submitted to several literary journals, but was rejected. A few copies were made at the author's expense, which received critical acclaim. However, these copies were later suppressed, and are now lost.[1] Shortly afterward, Jára was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was killed in battle in 1917.[2]

Following the author's death, the original manuscript's whereabouts became unknown. It is thought to have been in the possession of Edward Rydz-Śmigły prior to the German invasion of Poland in 1939, where it was seized by Nazi officials.[3] After World War II it again went missing.

Most of the manuscript was rediscovered in an antique shop in 1981.[1]

Question of authorship

Historians debate whether Jára, the son of an uneducated peasant, could have written the text, which frequently references obscure mythology, Marxist concepts and classical literature.[1] Many Polish people believe Edward Rydz-Śmigły to be the poem's author; however, it is unlikely that Rydz, a Polish military leader, would have written a poem in Czech.

Literary critic Jan Čulík has suggested a young Karel Čapek as the poem's true author, citing the author's interest in surrealism and political satire.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Česká literatura od počátků k dnešku, by Jiří Holý, Jaroslava Janáčková, Jan Lehár, Alexandr Stich (Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2004) ISBN 80-7106-308-8
  2. ^ a b Naughton, James (1995). The Traveller's Literary Companion to Eastern and Central Europe. Brighton: In Print Publishing. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0844289694.
  3. ^ Derek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History. Princeton University Press, 2000 ISBN 069105052X, (pp. 60–63).
  4. ^ Klima, Ivan (2001). Karel Čapek: Life and Work. New Haven, CT: Catbird Press. pp. 150–156. ISBN 0-945774-53-2.

{{DEFAULTSORT:Lying Student}} [[Category:Czech poetry]] [[Category:Epic poems]] [[Category:Absurdist fiction]] [[Category:Satirical works]] [[Category:1914 poems]]