Sidon, Karol Efraim

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SIDON, KAROL EFRAIM (1942– ), Czech writer, screenwriter, and playwright. Sidon was born in Prague. His father, a Jew, was executed in Theresienstadt in the Small Fortress after his deportation in 1944. In 1965–67, Sidon studied dramaturgy and screenwriting at the Film Academy of Music Arts in Prague. He worked as a screenwriter of animated films and as an editor at the journal Literární listy. After the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, he lost his jobs. After signing Charter 77, he left for Germany in 1983, converted to Judaism, and took Judaic studies in Heidelberg and Jerusalem (rabbinical training). In 1990 he returned to the Czech Republic and became its chief rabbi as well as that of Prague.

All of Sidon's work is connected with Jewishness and is often based on the painful experiences of his childhood and adolescence. His fiction started with Sen o mém otci (1968, "Dream about My Father"), an emotive portrait of his late father, his mother, and stepfather. The author's adulthood and marriage are reflected in Sen o mně (1970, "Dream about Myself"). After these works, all others appeared in samizdat between 1970 and 1989: a philosophical-contemplative essay Evangelium podle Josefa Flavia ("The Gospel According to Josephus Flavius," 1974; 1990); the novel Boží osten ("The Sting of God," 1976; 1991), containing the short story Polské uši ("Polish Ears") which appeared together with Brány mrazu ("Gates of Frost, " 1977) in Dvě povídky o utopencích ("Two Stories about the Drowned People," 1988, in exile), both of which project the author's personal experiences, anxieties, and emotions onto his heroes, some of whom are Jewish. In the essay Návrat Abrahamův ("The Return of Abraham," 1986) Sidon interprets biblical history; in the collection of interviews Když umřít, tak v Jeruzalémě ("If One Must Die, Let It at Least Be in Jerusalem," 1977 ) and Sedm slov ("Seven Words," 2004), the author discusses philosophical and moral questions concerning Judaism. Of his plays, the best known are Latriny ("The Latrines," 1971); Labyrint ("Labyrinth," 1972); and Shapira ("Shapira," 1972). Sidon also wrote radio plays and screenplays. He translated many parts of the Old Testament and numerous prayers for Jews in the Czech Republic.


J. Čulík, Knihy za ohradou. Česká literatura v exilových nakladatelstvích 1971–1989 (s.d.); P. Kubíková and P. Kotyk, Čeští spisovateléCzech Writers (1999); A. Mikulášek et al., Literatura s hvězdou Davidovou, vol. 1 (1998), vol. 2 (2002); Slovník českých spisovatelů (1982).

[Milos Pojar (2nd ed.)]