POLÁČEK, KAREL (1892–1945), Czech writer and journalist, a participant in the "Friday Visitors" literary gatherings of Karel Čapek and probably the outstanding Czech humorist after Hašek. Born in Rychnov nad Kněžnou, Bohemia, he began his career as a reporter in the law courts, where he gained insight into the ordinary people about whom he wrote in his short stories and novels. In these Poláček introduced many Jewish characters, mainly traders, salesmen, and commercial travelers, recording their way of life and mode of speech with accuracy and understanding. A number of these novels and stories became screen and tv successes. Poláček's first novel was Dům na předměstí ("The House on the Outskirts," 1928). One of his major works was the quintet Okresní město ("District Town," 1936), Hrdinové táhnou do boje ("Heroes Go into Battle," 1936), Podzemní město ("Underground Town," 1937), and Vyprodáno ("Sold Out," 1939); the fifth volume was completed but is known only in fragments. The work presents the panorama of a small Czech township. His volumes of short stories include Povídky pana Kočkodana ("Mr. Kočkodan's Tales," 1922), Mariáš a jiné živnosti ("Cardplaying and Other Professions," 1924), Povídky izraelského vyznání ("Stories of the Mosaic Persuasion," 1926), and Život ve filmu ("Life in the Movies," 1927). Two humorous novels are Muži v offsidu ("Men at Offside," 1931) and Michelup a motocykl ("Michelup and the Motorbike," 1935). His last novel had to be published under the name of a painter, Vlastimil Rada: Hostinec u kamenného stolu ("The Restaurant at the Stone Table," 1941). Other books were published after 1945, like the novel Bylo nás pět ("We Were Five," 1964). Poláček wrote two comedies, one of which, Pásky na vousy ("The Beard-binders," 1926), was produced by the Prague National Theater. During the Nazi occupation, Poláček was deported, first to Theresienstadt, later to Auschwitz. He probably died on his way to the Dora concentration camp in the winter of 1945. Poláček's Sebrané spisy ("Collected Works") were published in 1994–2002 in Prague in 22 volumes.
O. Donath, Židé a židovství v české literatuře (1930); J. Kunc, Slovník českých spisovatelů beletristů (1957); Frýd, in: Terezín (1965), 206–18 (publ. by the Council of Jewish Communities in the Czech Lands). add. bibliography: Českožidovští spisovatelé v literatuře 20. století (2000); J. Firt, Knihy a osudy (1972); M. Jelimowicz, Karel Poláček's Last Letter to Dora (1984); J. Jelimowiczová, Můj otec Karel Poláček (2001); A. Mikulášek et al., Literatura s hvězdou Davidovou, vol. i (1998); T. Pěkný, "Karel Poláček (1872–1944?)," in: Review of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, vol. 5 (1992–93); T. Pěkný, "Karel Poláček," in: Židovská ročenka (1991–92); Slovník českých spisovatelů (2000); H. Svobodová, Karel Poláček nezemřel (2000); J. Škvorecký, Karel Poláček (1967).
[Avigdor Dagan /
Milos Pojar (2nd ed.)