The Absolute Gravedigger by Vítězslav Nezval (trans. Stephan Delbos and Tereza Novická) — James Knight

False Fable

Once upon no time in Paris, a group of young men and women calling themselves the Surrealists discovered that they could make poems by setting fire to the trees in the Jardin des Tuileries or rubbing their crotches against the Tour Saint Jacques.


Vítězslav Nezval (1900-1958), an original member of the avant-garde artists group Devětsil and a leading figure in the Poetist movement, was perhaps the most prolific Czech writer of the interwar period. His output consists of a number of poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays, and translations. His best work is from the interwar period. Along with Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, and Toyen, Nezval frequently visited Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with André Breton and Paul Eluard, he was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia in 1934 (the first such group outside of France), serving as editor of the group’s journal Surrealismus.

Stephan Delbos is a New England-born writer living in Prague. A Founding Editor of the literary journal B O D Y, his poetry, essays, and translations from Czech have been published in a wide variety of venues in both English and Czech, including Asymptote, BlazeVOX, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Paris Lit Up, and Zoland Poetry. He is the editor of From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology (Litteraria Pragensia, 2011), and author of a poetry chapbook In Memory of Fire(Cape Cod Poetry Review, 2016). Tanec v různých hlasech, a collection of his poems in Czech translation (by poet Tereza Riedelbauchová) will be published by Literární salon in 2017. His play, Chetty’s Lullaby, about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, was produced in San Francisco in 2013. Delbos teaches at Charles University and Anglo-American University in Prague, and he is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures (UALK) at Charles University. His collection of visual poems, “Bagatelles for Typewriter,” was exhibited at Prague’s ArtSpace Gallery in 2012.

Tereza Novická Born in California to Czech parents who fled the communist regime at home, Tereza Novická grew up in San Francisco before moving to the Czech Republic in 2000. Currently a student in the American Literature graduate program at Charles University in Prague, she also works as a translator of Czech films (National Film Archive, Czech film festivals). She has translated a number of Czech and Slovak poets into English, including Ondřej Buddeus, Jan Těsnohlídek, Nóra Ružičková, Ondřej Škrabal, Sylva Fischerová, Lenka Daňhelová, Vlado Šimek, and most recently, Vítězslav Nezval.

James Knight is an experimental writer and digital artist whose work explores the themes of perception, memory, identity, dreams and the monstrous. As @badbadpoet he uses Twitter as a creative medium, and is a member of Jeff Noon’s collaborative Twitter project, @echovirus12. Much of his work can be found at

Images: (banner) Headz, Nick Kidd, Creative Commons, all images in PDF by James Knight.

The Absolute Gravedigger is published by Twisted Spoon Press. Author and translator bios courtesy of the same.