Ivan Jirous

* 1944  †︎ 2011

  • “When I was imprisoned in Valdice for three years and a half the time before the last time, I was laughing at them. I said: ´I won't serve my sentence till the end.´ And they said: ´What, how do you mean?' ´Well, because your regime is about to collapse, it won't last long.´ I knew it for sure that it was coming to an end. I don't want to say I'm a prophet but I have got an absolute clear political intuition. It was also a kind of advantage those three years and a half (half a year in custody, three years in Valdice) in Valdice, it was no fun... Well, and because I counted that the regime was going to snap and I would stay there just for a year and a half. So I was totally calm and after a year and a half when I found out it did not snap, I had only a year and a half left and it was also some fun... As we said in prison, the first five years are the worst ones. But some people said they didn't count with it at all. I counted with it for sure that I would see all my friends who emigrated or were forced to emigrate, that I would see them again. It was crystal clear to me!”

  • “I was (in 1989 – editorial note) just in prison – well, for the last time so far – for the petition Tak dost (Enough). We wrote it with Jiří Tichý. About three hundred people signed it. We guaranteed the signatures... It all arose under the influence of Pavel Wonka's death. I came to Prague, Jiří was waiting for me in hotel Kriváň where we used to go. We said to one another: “What are we going to do?” I said: “We have to do something!” So we wrote the petition Enough in which we enlisted their crimes (the Communist crimes – editorial note), how many people they put to death, how many they killed and “now you killed even Pavel Wonka! Enough!” We asked for release of political prisoners, for a reform of the penal law and I don't know for what else. We sent it to the government, to the Parliament and to five more institutions. We sent it off just intentionally on August 21st, 1988. Well, and then they found us. I was sentenced to such a nice length of time – a year and a half. So when the so called coup d'etat came, I call it the 'Great November', I was in jail.”

  • “... It's sad to say now that we imagined it all in a different way. We had no idea that the government of money was more powerful that the power of Bolshevik. You see, I have been free all the time. I shit on Bolshevik and I shit on all those fucking bastards from ODS (Civic Democratic Party) or ČSSD (Czech Social Democratic Party). I don't care how my dear Dáša Vokatá sings (he is humming – editorial note): “I don't really care who reigns over me, what kind of regime. I lay down in my bed and I agree with everyone. There were different governments and all of them fell as if cut down. I'll wait for the golden times on a stump in a shelter.” I have already said that in many interviews: the crucial mistake we made was that we never did something similar as Nuremberg Trials. We should have hung those twelve largest monsters, about fifty, sixty sentenced for life or given twenty years to those who had the posts from district secretaries onwards, we should have deprived them of civic rights till they die, no rights to vote. To set up a business, set up a business if you like. We didn't have done that. It is too late to regret, there is no chance to do change it today. I have got a couple of friends among ordinary Communists who never profited from it. They only have to pay tithes. I respect them because they have stayed in the Party and they profit only shit from it... But the monsters who controlled the machinery... As I say, it is too late to regret now. The slogan 'We are Different from Them'... We should have been like them. But as I say, it's too late to regret now.”

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    ???, 01.10.2009

    duration: 10:15
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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When the so called coup d’etat came, I call it the Great November, I was in jail

Ivan Jirous
Ivan Jirous
photo: Pamět národa - Archiv

  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.