Eisner, Pavel

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EISNER, PAVEL (Paul ; 1889–1958), bilingual Czech-German writer, translator, and literary critic. His literary work made him a bridge-builder between Czech and German cultural circles in Czechoslovakia. Born in Prague, Eisner studied Slavic philology at the German University there and soon became known as the editor of a series of anthologies, mainly of Czech and Slovak folk literature (Tschechische Anthologie, Slovakische Anthologie, Volkslieder der Slaven, Volksmaerchen der Slaven). As editor of the literary supplement of the government-owned paper Prager Presse, he became one of the few interpreters – most of whom were Jews – of Czech literature to the German reading public. One of the most prolific writers of his time, he translated hundreds of poems and short stories by practically every modern Czech author of importance. On the other hand, he was also a tireless translator from German into Czech, acquainting the Czech reader with authors ranging from J.W. Goethe to Thomas Mann and from Heinrich *Heine to Franz *Kafka. He was the first, in his book Nĕmecká literatura na půdĕ Československé republiky ("German Literature on Czechoslovak Soil," 1933), to analyze the contribution of the German Jewish writers from Prague. Czech-German-Jewish symbiosis is also the theme of his book of essays Milenky ("Lovers," 1930) and of Franz Kafka and Prague (1950). However, the bulk of his literary studies, mainly in the fields of comparative literature, psychology of languages, and the mutual influence of national cultures, remains dispersed in a great number of Central European publications. Although prevented by a hearing defect from becoming a musician, he nevertheless kept in constant touch with musical life and not only translated foreign operas into Czech and libretti of Czech operas (by Dvořák, Martinů, Jeremiáš) into German, but also wrote several studies on the history of music, including one on Jewish music and musical instruments. Shielded by his non-Jewish wife, who was distantly related to Richard Wagner, Eisner escaped deportation during the Nazi occupation and was able to work in the Jewish Museum in Prague. Some of his last essays were published in Vĕstník, the monthly of the Jewish community of Prague. His best known work is Chrám i tvrz ("The Cathedral and the Fortress," 1946), an exposition on the Czech language and its riches.

add. bibliography:

A. Mikulášek et al., Literatura s hvězdou Davidovou, vol. 1 (1998); Lexikon české literatury, 1 (1985).

[Avigdor Dagan]