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Fuchs, Rudolf

(1890–1942), poet, playwright, essayist, translator, and promoter of Czech culture. After graduating from secondary school, Rudolf Fuchs completed a series of courses at the German Commercial Academy in Prague. From 1909 to 1911, he worked as a clerk in an export firm first in Berlin and then in Prague. He was conscripted in 1917; upon returning from the front, he continued in his job until his emigration to Britain in 1939.

Despite the fact that his mother tongue was Czech, that he learned German only at the age of 10, and that he wrote his first poems in Czech and was drawn to contemporary Czech poetry throughout his life, Fuchs is nonetheless grouped among German writers from the Czech lands. His early expressionist works are marked by his search for identity, problems relating to his Jewish roots, and questions about the meaning of life. In his poems he tried to come to terms with the fate, suffering, and struggle of modern man and contemplated his own relationship to life, death, and to God—in this regard returning repeatedly to the Hebrew Bible. These themes influenced his collections Meteor (Meteor; 1913) and Karawane (Caravan; 1919), the latter marked by Fuchs’s experiences in the trenches and the resultant apocalyptic visions, which brought him to the brink of nihilism.

As early as the 1920s—but particularly in the decade’s closing years—Fuchs was involved in the socialist and, above all, the antifascist movement, becoming, among other things, chair of the League for Human Rights. Social conscience and an inclination to the Marxist Left marked his subsequent work, particularly his dramas Aufruhr im Mansfelder Land (Revolt in Mansfeld; 1928), Der Einsturz (Collapse; 1925 [Katastrofa in Czech; 1950]), and Kannitverstan (1929). The collection Gedichte aus Reigate (Poems from Reigate; 1941)—written during his exile in London—is generally regarded as his most mature work. The poems give powerful expression to his faith in the victory over fascism and his belief in a peaceful future, yet also attest to the hardships of émigré life. Fuchs’s final poetry collection, Ein wissender Soldat (A Knowing Soldier; 1943), appeared only posthumously. He died in a traffic accident in 1942 while in London.

In addition to his own literary work, Fuchs devoted much energy to propagating Czech culture in the German-speaking world. In 1926, he published an anthology of translations of Czech poetry titled Ein Erntekranz: Aus hundert Jahren tschechischer Dichtung (A Harvest Garland: One Hundred Years of Czech Poetry). Another anthology, Die tschechische und deutsche Dichtung in der Tschechoslowakei (Czech and German Poetry in Czechoslovakia; 1936 [published in Czech as České a německé písemnictví v Čechách; 1937]), won Fuchs the Herder Prize (financed by President Edvard Beneš), which was awarded for his ability to bring the Czech and German nations closer. After his death, two selections from Fuchs’s unpublished works appeared: Vzkaz (Legacy; 1950) and Die Prager Aposteluhr (The Prague Apostle Clock; 1985).

It was also thanks to Fuchs’s efforts that Peter Bezruč became the best-known Czech poet (along with Otakar Březina) in the German-speaking world. The appearance in 1916 of a collection of Bezruč’s poems, with a foreword by Franz Werfel upholding the rights of minorities to self-determination, constituted a brave political act in time of war. Fuchs published another collection of Bezruč’s poetry under the title Lieder eines schlesischen Bergmanns (Songs of a Silesian Miner; 1926). Finally, in 1937 he translated the complete works of Bezruč, and included his essay “Petr Bezruč—Dichter wider Willen” (Petr Bezruč—Poet against His Will).

Suggested Reading

Rudolf Fuchs, Die Prager Aposteluhr: Gedichte, Prosa, Briefe, ed. Ilse Seehase (Halle and Leipzig, 1985); Alexej Mikulášek, Viera Glosíková, and Antonín B. Schulz, Literatura s hvězdou Davidovou (Prague, 1998); Paul (Pavel) Reimann, Von Herder bis Kisch (Berlin, 1961); Scott Spector, Prague Territories: National Conflict and Cultural Innovation in Franz Kafka’s Fin de Siècle (Berkeley, 2000).



Translated from Czech by Martin Ward