This collection of Holan's narrative poems, Narrative Poems II, was published in 1963, but the poems were written between 1948 and 1953, during some of the cruellest years following the establishment of a totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia. Writing in "a delirious seclusion" in what today is regarded a legendary house on the island of Kampa in Prague, the poet experienced
"all the horrors" of the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Holan, in recollecting those years, emphasised that his poetry did not have a direct connection to any particular events of that time. His concern was always: "man, man's drama, man's human fate and the ill-fated heritage he has to live with at all times."
Nevertheless, that particular era did instil into Holan's poetry both an urgency to portray humanity's woes, as well as an intense affinity with "the stories" of ordinary people and outcasts, who manage to preserve the integrity of their personalities in spite of the tremendous pressures of their daily life.
Translation by Josef and Katarina Tomáš
Illustrations by Šerých, Jaroslav