When the so called coup d’etat came, I call it the Great November, I was in jail
Ivan Martin Jirous, nicknamed Magor (Loony), was born in Humpolec on September 23rd, 1944. He studied History of Arts at the Philosophical Faculty, Charles University in 1963-1969. Then he started working in a semi-monthly Výtvarná práce (Works of Art). Towards the end of the 60s he became enthused by rock music. He recognized that a new field of art was born, a new means of artistic expression. First of all he started cooperating with a music group The Primitives Group. He became a (non-performing) leader of the legendary The Plastic People of the Universe (PPU) in 1969. It was already after the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and KSČ (the Communist Party) was about to start with purges soon. The magazine Works of Art was banned in 1971. Jirous earned his living as a worker since then. He was imprisoned for the first time in 1973: he and his friends sang a Sokol song in a pub in Prague. They changed the words “drive the Prussians out of Prague” for the up-to-date “drive the Russians murderers.” At the same time he had a quarrel with an aggressive drunkard who turned out to be a member of the State Security. The cause ended up with a trial and Ivan Jirous was sentenced with a twelve-month sentence. Rock bands had to undergo the political check at the beginning of Normalization. They had to receive so called ‘replays’ without which they were not allowed to perform in public. PPU refused to conform, they didn’t get the permit - and they were forced to ‘go underground.’ Ivan Jirous organized many illegal concerts including ‘The First Festival of the Second Culture in ČSSR (the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic)’ in the first half of the 70s. He published his first collection of poems Loony’s Morning Song in samizdat in 1975. The prohibited Second Festival of the Second Culture took place in Bojanovice in 1976. After that the members of PPU and many underground musicians were arrested. Ivan Martin Jirous stood with Pavel Zajíček, Svatopluk Karásek and Vratislav Brabenec at court in September 1976. His cultural activities resulted in eighteen-month imprisonment. At that time many opposition groups united for the first time at all in order to support underground, which foreshadowed the formation of Charter 77. Ivan Jirous signed it immediately after his release from prison. After only 37 days of freedom he was arrested again. He was accused of sedition and he was sentenced to eight months for rioting. He appealed but it resulted only in the fact that he got ten more months of jail. Having been released in April 1979 he got engaged in the unofficial cultural life again. He published many texts in samizdat, he also wrote a substantial part of the prose The True Story of the Plastic People. In autumn 1981 the police arrested him for publishing the samizdat magazine VOKNO. He went to jail for three years and a half. He served his sentence in Valdice. There he wrote his collection Loony’s Swan Songs that belongs to one of the most powerful works of Czech modern poetry. The struggle with the regime did not stop after his release from prison. In March 1989 he was sentenced to sixteen months of prison because of the petition “Tak dost! (Enough!)” that denounced the crimes of Communism in the 50s and the murder of dissident Pavel Wonka. It was not sooner than on November 25th, 1989 when the president absolved him from the rest of his sentence. Besides the texts mentioned above, Ivan Martin Jirous published many books of poetry. His publicist texts, essays and letters were also published as books. He received Tom Stoppard Award for the collection Loony’s Swan Songs. He won the prize The Book of the Year twice in an inquiry in Lidové noviny (Public Papers). He was awarded Jaroslav Seifert Prize for his life long work in 2006. Died on November 9th, 2011 in Prague.